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HSE responds to The Telegraph article - "Sir Paul Stephenson: let us risk our lives"

"Sir Paul Stephenson: let us risk our lives" - The Telegraph, 6 May 2011
Response date:
10 May 2011

Dear Sir,

The headlines in this Saturday's Telegraph (p1, 'Let us risk our lives') created a false impression that health and safety restrictions on the emergency services was the major theme of the 7/7 inquest report.

The reality is that Lady Justice Hallett noted that health and safety legislation, when properly implemented, has played an "invaluable role" in protecting workers from injury, disease and death. As far as it applied to the emergency services in July 2005, she said she was assured that London Fire Brigade's operational policies and procedures did not unnecessarily restrict the discretion of officers on the ground.

And in his interview, Sir Paul Stephenson said he did want appropriate health and safety legislation and guidelines applying to the police, though this went unreported.

Emergency services and HSE agree that there is no need for heroic acts to be hampered by health and safety law. The Health and Safety Executive recognises that the emergency services often have a uniquely dangerous job to do - they have to make decisions and take actions to protect people which will inevitably put them at some risk. All health and safety law requires is that the risk must be reduced as far as is reasonable in the particular circumstances of any incident.

We have worked extensively with the emergency services to make clear that health and safety should not and does not prevent frontline staff from doing their job - nor deny them the protection which is reasonable given their role.

Yours faithfully

Judith Hackitt
Health and Safety Executive

Updated 2012-01-13