Record number of Scottish firefighters suffering from stress

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that record numbers of Scottish firefighters are unable to work because they are suffering from stress-related disorders. This follows revelations in last week’s Sunday Herald that Scotland’s police service was experiencing record stress levels among officers.

Figures show that psychological illness led to the loss of 6556 working days in the Strathclyde area alone last year, at a cost of £458,920. This is a four-fold increase on 2002, when 1445 days were lost and £101,150 was paid out to cover the absences of stressed-out staff.

The major factor causing the stress, according to fire chiefs, is the increase in violent attacks on emergency crews. Brian Sweeney, chief officer for Strathclyde, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that there is a parallel between stress-related illness and the number of attacks on firefighters. The rise in absences almost mirrors the increase in attacks.” He warned that there was a “disturbing upward trend” of gangs luring firefighters into a “planned ambush”.

Stress-related absences also contributed to massive increases in overtime payments to cover depleted teams. Every region recorded an increase, the largest in Strathclyde, where the bill last year was £102,534, a rise of 338% since 1999.

Record numbers of firefighters off sick with stress (Sunday herald, 9 April 2006)