Monday, August 07, 2006


Firemen are blazing mad after bosses banned them from sliding down poles - on safety grounds. Brave crews risk their lives fighting fires - but experts have ruled they could be in danger when using the pole to answer 999 calls.

Firefighters could suffer repetitive stress injuries, bad backs, sprained ankles and even chaffing to their hands and thighs, health and safety bosses claimed. Now a new o2.4million station has been built MINUS the traditional pole, forcing firemen to run down stairs instead.

Designers of the building in Greenbank, Plymouth, say they are following safety guidelines. But crews are furious. Station officer Ken Mulville said: "In 30 years in the brigade, I've seen one or two accidents on poles compared to tens of accidents with people on stairs. It takes about a second and a half to slide down a pole as opposed to 15 or 20 seconds to run down two flights of stairs. "Seconds could be critical when responding to a 999 call."

Plymouth's Fire Brigades Union spokesman Trevor French said: "Firemen are more likely to get hurt tripping down the stairs then sliding down a pole." One firefighter at Greenbank said: "It's crazy - they pay you to plunge into burning buildings but won't risk you on a pole."

But Bernard Hughes, chairman of Devon Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "There have been a number of injuries to firefighters on poles. "A risk assessment was taken and the decision has been made not to put poles in." He denied the risk to the public would be increased by using the stairs. He said: "It's only a matter of seconds. That is not important when you consider we have a response time of 20 minutes to some emergencies."

Devon's chief fire officer Paul Young said: "The evidence is there has been no increase in response times as a consequence of not having a traditional pole. "The design of each station is determined by a host of issues. This does not mean there will never be poles at fire stations."

John Midgley, of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: "This is a completely disproportionate response. If they were so concerned, they should have built the station on one level."


Another photo ban

Grandmother Suzanne Hansford has blasted 'politically correct' authorities after she was banned from taking photos of her granddaughter in a paddling pool. Mrs Hansford was prevented from taking pictures of four-year-old Amber as she took her first dip in a pool. As she pressed the button, a park attendant on Southampton Common, Hants, told Mrs Hansford she could not take snaps of the family day out because of council regulations. Southampton City Council insists no photos are taken at its pools and leisure facilities due to fears paedophiles might obtain illicit snaps of young children.

Upset Mrs Hansford, who lives in the city and works at a print company, said: "Are we now to be denied having photographic memories of our children and grandchildren? "I was so annoyed. "There are thousands of law-abiding people out there, just trying to enjoy the summer and take happy family pictures. "Why should we be penalised for the degenerates in our society?" The 52 year old, who had enjoyed the day out with her daughter-in-law Chrissie, argued the regulations should not apply to people who are obviously mothers and grandmothers.

Southampton City Council, which runs the pool, said exceptions could only be made for groups, such as Brownies or Cubs. And even then an application has to be made in writing to the council and parental permission sought from each child to be photographed. Paul Shearman, Southampton City Council's outdoor sports manager, said: "Health and safety is paramount in making each customer experience a positive one when visiting our pool. "As a preventative safety and comfort measure we do run a policy of restricting the use of cameras, including camera phones. "We would ask for understanding of this policy but do appreciate and accept that this may disappoint a minority of customers."

A week ago New Forest District Council chiefs ordered a father in Pennington, Hants, to remove an inflated paddling pool on health and safety grounds. Richard Cole was told by the council that someone walking through the communal courtyard in front of the flats could trip over the pool and fall into the water. New Forest District Council said: "Inflatable swimming pools are not suitable for any council-owned communal areas on health and safety grounds."

Parents have previously been prevented from taking photographs of their children in an attempt to stop pictures ending up in the hands of paedophiles. A Church minister was furious when he was banned from taking a photograph of his 16-year-old son playing in a school orchestra because of an anti-paedophile rule in 2001. The Rev Richard Burkitt, 51, claimed staff at a Scottish theatre stopped him taking a snap of his youngest son Frank for the family album. Eden Court Theatre defended its decision, insisting he was halted for 'child protection' reasons.

A year later parents of children performing in a nativity play at Sundon Lower School near Luton were banned from taking photos or videos of the performance. The headmistress wrote to parents after governors decided images of the youngsters could be inappropriately used on the Internet. Then last year an influential parents' group called on heads to ban cameras and video equipment from school events unless all families have given prior consent for their children to be filmed. The National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations believed the move could help prevent images of children reaching paedophiles.


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