Scottish Firefighters to participate in health screening trials

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The Scottish Government has provided funding of £56,000 to enable firefighters based in Scotland to participate in a UK-wide health screening programme which is being facilitated by the Fire Brigades Union and the University of Central Lancashire.

Around 1,000 UK firefighters will take part in trials which will include blood tests to look for early signs of illness and cancer and these trials will help to inform the evidence around potential future annual health screening arrangements.

Siobhian Brown, Minister for Victims and Community Safety said: “I am delighted that we have been able to provide funding to ensure that Scottish firefighters are part of this important research.

“We will continue to work closely with the FBU and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ensure the safety and wellbeing of firefighters who work so hard to keep our communities safe.”

Research has shown that firefighters report higher incidences of cancers and other diseases when compared with the general population.


These findings are based on research commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), conducted by Professor Anna Stec of the University of Central Lancashire (UClan), Minimising firefighters' exposure to toxic fire effluents, published in January 2020 and further research involving firefighters in Scotland, which was published in January 2023. The research led to an FBU campaign for firefighters to have increased health monitoring and recording and well as the development of an FBU DECON Campaign.

The Regional Secretary for the FBU in Scotland, John McKenzie, said: "The FBU welcomes these health monitoring trials for firefighters in Scotland which are being conducted by Professor Anna Stec from the University of Central Lancashire, and would encourage as many of our members as possible to take part in order to continue to progress this essential work.

“We also welcome the additional funding provided by the Scottish Government to allow this research to take place.”

The SFRS and FBU have been working collaboratively to look at ways to help protect the health of firefighters. SFRS has also formed a dedicated Contaminants Group to look at ways of reducing firefighters’ exposure to fire contaminants and has increased health awareness and support. Work to date has included the development of operational policies, procedures and training as well as audits of fire stations across Scotland.

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Andy Watt said: "This clearly demonstrates our commitment to continuously drive improvement in firefighter safety and I’m delighted that SFRS personnel are volunteering to take part in this vital piece of research.

“The SFRS has already undertaken work to minimise the risk of contaminants for our staff and we will continue to work in partnership with the FBU and Professor Anna Stec to develop and deliver further improvements that will help mitigate the effects of contaminants. There are a wide number of areas of work that we are progressing through our Contaminants Group that will take time to deliver, and staff will see the phased implementation of these changes and improvements over the coming months.

“We are fully committed to doing all that we can to protect firefighters and ensure their safety. The safety of our staff is absolutely paramount.”

John McKenzie added: “The FBU is committed to continuing to work in partnership with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and welcome the organisation’s ongoing commitment to address the risks of fire contaminants to our members.  The Contaminants Group continues to carry out positive work in this area, and it is imperative that firefighters continue to see the impact of this work within their workplaces over the months ahead.”



Photo taken at Calton Fire Station in Glasgow includes:

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Andy Watt, Firefighter Ian Riddell, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, Firefighter Daniel Kerr and FBU Scotland Representative Colin Brown. 

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