by Will Stone at POA conference in Southport
PRISON officers rejected guidelines yesterday telling them to carry out the work of professional firefighters when prisoners start fires.
Fire safety training states they should enter burning cells “wearing bags over our heads,” delegates at the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) conference were told.
“The practice is highly dangerous,” said Bullingdon branch’s Steve Wrighton. “These guidelines need to be amended now.”
Executive member Joe Simpson said that prison officers do have a duty of care to protect inmates.
“However, they also have a duty of care for their own health and safety at work and to protect themselves against smoke inhalation,” he said.
“Until prison officers receive the proper training in carrying out search and rescue operations I urge you not to enter cells after a fire.
“The only person who can tell if a fire has been properly extinguished is a trained firefighter.”
Prison officers also demanded that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) urgently publish its independent medical report into second-hand smoke in prisons.
A smoking ban is being rolled out this year across prisons in England and Wales.
POA executive member Terry Fullerton said that despite the ban prisoners would still be allowed to smoke in their cells.
“Smoking in cells should be overturned,” he demanded. “Smoking should be banned completely to have a smoke-free environment.”
POA delegates, addressing issues on their health and safety, argued that the report by professor John Britton would shed light on how prisoners’ smoking affects their health.