Report 17

Support and Preparedness of Fire and Emergency Services Volunteers

The management of fatigue amongst volunteers needs improvement

In their evidence to the CDJSC, DFES indicated they were developing a fatigue management policy. However, almost three years on, a fatigue management policy is still not in place. Fatigue management is mentioned across a number of other policies, but only at a high level.

Recognition by DFES of the very specific issue of volunteer fatigue management is important. Many volunteers are attending incidents after having already worked a full day in their paid employment or private businesses (e.g. farming). Unlike career firefighters, for whom DFES is their primary employer, volunteers are attending incidents in their own time. This significantly increases the risk of fatigue and may affect volunteer retention.

During our site visits, a number of volunteers identified the complexity of fatigue management. One volunteer gave the example of attending an incident after a long day at work, then spending several hours at an incident. The volunteer commented that a DFES policy may require them to stop working at that point but that this would then be at odds with leaving unattended a fire that puts the safety and livelihood of their friends and neighbours at risk. Volunteers commented that if there is no one to take over from them, they have few options.

The Guidelines for Successful Partnerships between Public Sector Agencies and Volunteers highlights that volunteers need to be recognised and managed appropriately, which is not always the same as paid employees. But, DFES do not have volunteer policies and procedures. Rather, volunteers are included under DFES standard policies and procedures, which overlooks some of the crucial differences in motivations of a volunteer workforce.

Back to Top