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Death Caused By Health & Safety Obsession

Alison Hume inquiry: A damning verdict, an avoidable death, but no apology - Edinburgh, East & Fife - Scotsman.com

FIRE chiefs “should have saved” a mother of two who fell into a disused mineshaft, her family said, after a fatal accident inquiry found her death could have been avoided.

Lawyer Alison Hume suffered “survivable” injuries after plunging 14 metres down the collapsed shaft in Galston, Ayrshire, in July 2008.

Her rescue was delayed by senior fire officers who showed “rigid compliance” with official health and safety procedures, the inquiry concluded.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said Mrs Hume’s death was “a source of enormous regret” but stopped short of issuing an apology to the family.

Firefighters had wanted to go down to rescue her, and 18 of them had been trained to do so. But their senior officers refused to give them permission, believing the situation was not safe.

In his findings after the fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Derek Leslie said the decision by senior officers to leave Mrs Hume in freezing conditions, having suffered several serious injuries, was “in conflict with the greater aims of a rescue service”.

He was highly critical and said her death could have been avoided if reasonable precautions had been taken by firefighters, who arrived first at the scene, and police.

The sheriff criticised Group Commander Paul Stewart, the senior fire officer at the scene, for saying the rescue had been “a success”.

Sheriff Leslie went on: “Unfortunately, this was not a successful operation: a woman died who had not only sustained survivable, though life-threatening, injuries, but who had also ultimately suffered and died from acute hypothermia, brought about by a prolonged period down a mineshaft, in which time she had been partly immersed, for a time at least, in water.

“I consider that the views expressed by Mr Stewart and Mr [Group Commander William] Thomson were of a fundamentalist adherence to Strathclyde Fire and Rescue policy.”

He also chastised Assistant Chief Fire Officer John Walker for telling the inquiry “he did not consider that fire and rescue services had a sub-surface remit” and would only have one when responding to the collapse of a building, tunnel or some other “structure”, which did not include mines.

“I was not directed to any legislation, or protocol, that allows me to accept the views expressed by Group Commander Stewart, or Assistant Chief Fire Officer Walker, that the type of rescue they would have required to undertake with Mrs Hume was not within the parameters of their engagement,” Sheriff Leslie said.

“There is little doubt that the rank-and-file firefighters in attendance were anxious to conduct a rescue as quickly as possible but were prevented from doing so by the superiors.”

Lions and donkeys. If ever there was a case that demanded that the officers were publicly stripped of their stripes then this is it.


It is worth watching the interview with a senior officer on the Scottish news last night, amazing complacency. There should be resignations over this but I doubt whether there will be.

I seem to remember that the officer who refused to allow them to assist was a press officer, or something similar, who happened to be the most senior at the scene.

Come, come, a little charity if you please! These fine fellows, including the chap on the telly last night, have to sing from the Authority song sheet or face losing their pensions. In this fine, fair, free and oh so cuddly society we have created, no one wishing to remain employed dares to say anything which might endanger their promotion chances, their positions or their pensions. Especially those of us who served in the "new" FRS when faced with the "new" deal created by Bliar et cie, which places all the power and all the authority in the hands of the "elected" Chairman of the Authority. Don't blame the lads, blame the moron who "Chairs" the FRA and his/her "Members."

The now retired CFO (In Scotland Firemaster) has already delivered a damning statement on this to howls of abuse from the 'elf an' Saf'ey community. The Sheriff is, however, correct, and the officers concerned don't know their own legislation, another legacy of Bliar's meddling with a service that was, until he and his mob got their hands on it, the envy of the world. No longer!

Had men been sent down and died from asphyxiation, no doubt there would have been an equal outcry over that - http://web-safety.com/Exchange/Features/papers/CSZero.PDF.

I think the question that should be asked is why breathing apparatus was not provided when they knew the potential hazards of working in a disused tunnel?

Aloysious A Gruntpuddock,

Early into the rescue they did send someone down, fireman Alexander Dunn, who stayed with Alison Hume for more than four hours.

Three men with enough rope and a place to tie it could have saved this lady, it didn't take special training at all. The mother-may-I attitude upon which the bureaucrats insist is the chief cause of this woman's death, and will be the cause of more deaths to come.

We had this discussion today and some of the PCists said, "The law is the law." I was thinking of a privy orifice at that point.

The Edinburgh Parliament has now said there will be an independent inquiry so we will have to hope it is not just a whitewash.

I saw the statement by the senior fire officer on the news again at lunchtime, why did it not come from the senior officer of Strathclyde Fire Brigade, he was several layers down from the top which seems incredible considering the damage this is doing to the brigade.

There was criticism after the Loch Awe deaths because they had removed a rescue boat from Oban (an area with many inland lochs) so adding to the delay though in that case it probably would have not save those who died. Also, similar to this case, no one seemed to be aware that there was a boat available nearer from a nearby MRT.

How can these people sleep at night?

@Aloysious A Gruntpuddock - "Had men been sent down and died from asphyxiation, no doubt there would have been an equal outcry over that"

Get real - have you not heard of the yellow canary principle - if there was risk of asphyxiation then the victim would not be alive ... use your brain !!

Strathclyde Fire Brigade have now apologised to the family.

I think they need a few people replaced in their PR department as well as some more senior officers.

Re: murdock @ Aloysius A Gruntpuddock

Agree with murdock on the canary concept. If it was so bad that a strong healthy fireman on the end of a rope was at risk then the injured woman would be dead. They would have been entering a "Confined Space" (a well shaft) but they are trained to do so. They have BA. They have atmosphere monitors that have alarms and would have told them of a problem. Equally, they could have lowered a monitor on a piece of rope. They should have had risk assessments and procedures for entering such spaces (if not, why the **** not?).

Alan not Alab
(Need more coffee)

There is more criticism of Strathclyde Fire because nearby fire brigades had the equipment and training to carry out the rescue but were not called.

Fatal fire rescue snub blamed for Alson Hume's death


"FIRE bosses behind a botched mine rescue might have prevented a tragedy by calling for expert help.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue failed to ask their Lothian and Borders counterparts to send a specialised rope team.

Now they have been accused of putting pride before saving Alison Hume's life as she lay 40ft down a disused shaft.

A senior source at Lothian and Borders told the Sunday Mail their team could have been in Galston, Ayrshire, within two hours and freed lawyer Alison."

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