Firemen have saved precious seconds by sliding down a pole to the ground floors of their fire stations for almost 200 years. But now, due to new European safety directives, they are being ordered to walk down the stairs instead… Gloucestershire Fire Brigade has become the first in Britain to stop its firefighters using them in light of the EEC’s 1992 Working Conditions Regulations.
(Daily Mail, 16 June 2002, p 25)
Fire chiefs in the North-East are rejecting a European safety directive to stop staff sliding down station poles — and cut injuries and compensation claims. The new EU safety directive states that firemen should be ordered to walk down the stairs instead.
(The Newcastle Journal, 17 June 2002, p 4)
There is no legislation entitled the ‘EEC Working Conditions Regulations 1992’. The most relevant pieces of European law are the Council Directives of 1989 and 1991 which encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers. Whilst these lay down important protective measures, stipulating that employers should anticipate and manage risk at the workplace, there is nothing in either which specifically relates to fireman’s poles. The EU has not banned the use of this essential apparatus. It is highly likely that the articles are referring to the 1992 Codes of Practice on health and safety at work, adopted by the UK government to transpose the EU legislation into domestic law. Again these contain general provisions to ensure worker safety, but in no way do they dictate that firemen must ‘walk down the stairs’ instead of sliding down a pole.