Firefighters to work 24-hour shifts

FIREFIGHTERS will be working 24-hour shifts from May, prompting safety concerns.

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service (BLFRS) is the first fire service in the UK to introduce the system, which is based on a cycle of 24 hours on, 72 hours off.

The shift pattern will be phased in over a six-month period from May.

The change has been agreed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) following more than 12 months’ discussion, but has been described as “the best of a bad choice of options” by the FBU’s Bedfordshire branch secretary, Lee Moon.

“We are disappointed we are changing shift patterns,” he said. “The majority of our members didn’t want it.

“It’s an untested system in this country and there are safety concerns. It will pose some fatigue problems.”

Mr Moon said the change is being made because of the need to make budget savings, adding: “Our chief’s hands are tied and we can see that.”

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A spokesman for BLFRS said the new system will help make significant savings in order to address the impact of grant reductions and spending constraints.

A total of 24 full-time posts will be lost under the new system – met through natural wastage over the next few years, rather than redundancies.

Bedfordshire’s chief fire officer, Paul Fuller, said: “The new shift system will meet the key requirement to maintain frontline service delivery standards.

“The public will notice no change when they dial 999. We will still respond as quickly and with the same resources as before.”

Under the new system, firefighters will have a dedicated seven-hour rest period from midnight, where they will only be attending emergency calls.

“The health and safety of our firefighters is of paramount concern to us,” said Mr Fuller. “The new 24-hour shift system allows us to have more influence and control over the rest they have – both at work and between shifts.”