Female firefighters are being ‘forced to strip to their underwear in front of male colleagues’ in ‘grossly inappropriate’ working environment, union claims
The union criticized the practice in a letter to the government inspector of Kent Fire and Rescue Service
Female firefighters are being made to strip to their underwear in full consideration of their male colleagues and the wider public, their representatives said.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has written in a letter to official inspectors that Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s practices are ‘grossly inappropriate’.
A few months ago, a report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) outlined ‘deeply troubling’ behavior across England’s emergency services.
FBU general secretary Matt Rack said: ‘Fire stations are workplaces – and it is unacceptable that firefighters are put in a position to strip down to their underwear in full view of colleagues or even the public.’
The union said firefighters were being forced to get down to the station ‘before being issued with fire kit when attending operational incidents’.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has criticized the practices of Kent Fire and Rescue Service in a letter to official inspectors (stock image)
FBU general secretary Matt Rack said: ‘Fire stations are workplaces – and it is unacceptable that firefighters are put in a position to strip down to their underwear in full view of colleagues or even the public’ (file photo)
The union said Kent Brigade Chief Fire Officer Ann Millington was contacted in May after concerns were raised through the union’s National Women’s Committee.
The union said: ‘He also appeared to defend the practice, saying that removing underwear could prevent overheating.’
After Millington’s denial, the FBU said its officials personally saw it happen.
In his letter to HMICFRS, Mr Rack wrote: ‘To be clear, this is not common practice elsewhere; Accepted practice is that fire kits are donned over cotton work clothes.’
The HMICFRS report, published before the allegations in March, found that every fire brigade in England was rife with allegations of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Writing in the Observer, Mr Rack said Millington’s response highlighted ‘the very cultural problems we are trying to eradicate’ from the emergency service.
He responded to the union’s letter by citing Millington’s claim that no official complaint had been made in the matter.
The union said firefighters were forced to disembark at stations ‘before donning fire kit while attending operational incidents’.
He said: ‘It is naive at best for the Chief Fire Officer to argue that… as HMICFRS points out, many people are reluctant to report situations and behavior for fear of an adverse reaction, refusal to act or attempts to dismiss their concerns.’
He added that the union also raised the issue with National Fire Chiefs Council chair Mark Hardingham and Fire Minister Chris Philp in June, but it did not cover the issue directly in their responses.
Mr Rack said: ‘This episode demonstrates chronic management inaction. The problem of the fire service goes to the very top.’
Millington told the Guardian: ‘Crews told us they felt hotter wearing trousers under firefighter leggings and virtually all of them, men and women, wanted the option of not wearing trousers under PPE. Especially during this time of warm weather, many firefighters point to the discomfort of sweaty trousers under leggings and say it can be very uncomfortable.
‘Individuals who choose not to wear trousers under PPE are expected to be aware of their own privacy/dignity and that of their colleagues when undressing behind an open fire engine door.
‘I would like to add that we previously offered to discuss this with the FBU, and they have not responded.’
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