Section 12

Evacuate yourself?

Published on: Fri, 30/12/2011 - 19:51

LU are pushing the idea that, in the event of a station evacuation, it is the customers' responsibility to get themselves out of the station.

You will always get the odd stubborn customer who refuses to take a fire alert seriously. Of course we shouldn't put ourselves at risk for them.

But why is LU preaching this message now? Preparing the ground for reducing minimum numbers, perhaps?

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A Year On: Another Euston Fire

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2011 - 11:44

Almost exactly a year on from last year's fire in an escalator machine room, Euston station has had another reminder of the constant risks to safety and need for staff on the Underground.

This most recent fire was in the air vents. A huge team of fire fighters was needed to tackle it. It was impossible for the fire brigade to say what initially caused it, as they said something can so easily get into the air vents. This shows that, for all management's confidence about keeping risks to a minimum, the risks can never be eliminated.

Last year's fire was picked up by member of staff, as the fire detection system was defective. This year, the fire also coincided with defective equipment. The Public Address system was not working, so staff had to hurry around the station with megaphones to get everybody out.

With the volume of passengers travelling through our stations, any fire that was not properly managed and detected would have dire consequences.

With the ever-present risk and unreliabile detection and evacuation equipment, the only thing that stands between safety and a major catastrophe is the presence of staff. We need to defend section 12 staffing numbers, and to fight for more staff, to reflect the real numbers needed in a real-life evacuation, especially since the February jobs cull.

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Diluting Minimum Staffing

Published on: Tue, 15/01/2008 - 20:18

There has been a sudden and myseterious change to Section 4.2 of every Section 12 station's Emergency Plan. That's the clause that tells you your minimum staffing numbers, below which you can not open the station.

It used to specify how many of each grade eg. 1 Supervisor, 1 Station Assistant (Control Rooms), 3 CSAs. Now - with the exception of Supervisors, who have to be there by law - the specific grades have been dropped. So the above example would now read 1 Supervisor, 4 other staff.

Why is this a problem?

Firstly, because safe operation of your station might require specific grades - eg. SA(CR) - rather than just a total numner of generic 'staff'.

And secondly, management seem to think that 'staff' can now include cleaners, engineers, contractors etc. So in the above example, they may be carrying vacancies and have a SA(CR) and a CSA duty uncovered, but if there is a lift engineer and a cleaner on the station, your local busybody manager could insist that you open the station anyway.

It doesn't take much thought to work out that this is (a) a major threat to safety (b) a precursor to further massive cuts in station staffing. It's one more reason why our unions need to fight and why rank-and-file members need to kick their butts to do so.

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Section 12 - Is It Or Isn't It?

Published on: Sat, 17/11/2007 - 09:04

We all know that a station is either Section 12 or not. It can't be Section 12 in parts, not in other parts. If any part of it is sub-surface, then the whole station is covered by the Section 12 regulations, brought in after the King's Cross fire to prevent, detect and suppress fire in sub-surface railway stations.

But it seems that either Network Rail or LUL management have forgotten this important element of the law. A scaffolding tower has appeared on the ex-Silverlink platforms at Highbury & Islington - minus the hoarding, and the exemption certificate, that Section 12 regulations require. Management's excuse? That because these particular platforms are on the surface, they are not Section 12. Nonsense.

With the 20th anniversary of the King's Cross fire being tomorrow, it seems that management's memories fade fast. Ours must not.

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Low Risk?

Published on: Fri, 07/07/2006 - 11:32

It's OK, everyone. Calm down. King's Cross is a 'low-risk' station. We know this because London Underground Ltd says so.

Sure, lots of people died in a fire there in the 1987. And some more people died between Kings Cross and Russell Square a year ago today. Oh yeah, and it's one of the busiest railway stations in London and maybe even the world. But hey.

The government wants to scrap Section 12 and allow LUL's own risk assessment procedures to decide on safety measures. But when those procedures turn up a result like this, it only shows how mad that proposed legislation is. Mad and dangerous.

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Alarming news on Underground fire safety

Published on: Fri, 24/03/2006 - 12:42

RMT press release ...

LONDON UNDERGROUND has downgraded its own fire-safety regime, despite fierce opposition from its own principal fire engineer and union safety reps, the Tube's biggest union reveals today.

Changes imposed by LUL have relegated fire-safety to become an adjunct of general health and safety policy, done away with the existing fire inspection programme and even abolished the post of specialist fire-safety advisor, RMT says.

The union has urged the Railways Inspectorate to intervene to get LUL to suspend the changes, and has renewed its call to ministers not to scrap regulations that impose minimum fire-safety standards on sub-surface railway stations throughout Britain.

In an internal email outlining his opposition to changes to LUL's fire-safety management regime, which were imposed at the end of February despite union protests, LUL fire engineer Martin Weller said:

"Overall, I have reluctantly concluded that I cannot support the proposals as presented. At a time when LU is facing the biggest change in fire legislation to hit the UK in 30 years, and when we have evidence that the extensive engineering works that we are currently undertaking are increasing fire risk, it would (in my opinion) be inadvisable in the extreme to reduce the breadth and depth of specialist Fire Safety Management expertise within COO. I know of no organisation in the UK of a similar size to us and even approaching our fire risk profile which does not retain this type of management expertise. A few days (or even weeks) training for existing staff cannot replicate the experience and expertise currently resident in that Directorate. I would intuitively anticipate that the proposed alterations will increase costs, rather than decrease them, since overall efficiency is likely to decline."

"It is astonishing that in one breath LUL can tell the London Assembly about the massive problems it experienced in the wake of the July 7 bombings yet with the next insist on changes that even their own fire engineer opposed," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

"Our safety reps also raised serious concerns about the proposals, yet LUL management have waved them to one side and once more imposed change, despite a promise to postpone implementation to allow for more talks.

"The review that resulted in these changes was seriously flawed. We have discovered that at least one pilot scheme for the new regime never actually took place - a fact that LUL calls a 'minor inaccuracy'.

"We have already asked HMRI to intervene, but it is all the more important now to ensure that the minimum fire-safety standards brought in after the King's Cross fire remain in place.

"For all sorts of reasons - not least the security situation - the fire risk on the London Underground has increased significantly, and now is not the time for LUL to weaken fire-safety management or for ministers to abolish minimum fire-safety standards," Bob Crow said.

"These revelations underline the urgent need to retain the existing sub-surface station fire-safety regulations, and we will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister," said RMT parliamentary group convenor John McDonnell MP.

"If necessary we will use parliamentary procedure to block the start of the inferior arrangements the government intends to introduce so that this matter can be fully debated in parliament."


Notes to editors: Notes on the 1989 sub-surface fire regulations and parliamentary early-day motion on Tube fire safety follow below.

RMT members, including LUL staff who took part in the July 7 rescue operations, will lobby the Deputy Prime Minister's office at Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E, 5DU on Monday March 27 at 11:00, to urge that the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989 remain in place - see separate calling notice to be issued today.

Notes on the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989

The 1989 Regulations make up Section 12 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, and were added on the recommendation of the Fennell Report into the 1987 King's Cross fire. They cover 'sub-surface stations' throughout Britain, including those on underground systems in Glasgow, Tyne and Wear and London, but also national rail stations which are 'sub-surface', including Birmingham New Street, London's Charing Cross and several in Liverpool. The government's Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2004, as originally drafted, would have repealed the 1971 Act, and with it the Section 12 regulations.

The regulations stipulate minimum safe staffing levels, means of detecting and warning of fires and means of escape and firefighting, as well as standards of fire-resistant construction, training and various other precautions, which are not specified in the Fire Safety Order the government wants to replace them with.

The government's first move to scrap the 1989 regulations - which lay down minimum staffing levels and other safety standards for sub-surface stations - was opposed by the House of Commons' Regulatory Reform Committee in October 2004, following an intervention by RMT parliamentary group convenor John McDonnell. The relevant part of the committee's report is attached.

The government has subsequently said it would repeal the regulations in April 2006, but most recently indicated that it would do so six to 12 months after the Fire Safety Order comes into force. However, the Fire Safety Order and guidance do not give the same statutory protections as in the 1989 Regulations, specifically on:

  • Means of escape
  • Means of fighting fire
  • Means of detection and giving warning
  • Fire-resistant construction
  • Instruction and training
  • Keeping of records
  • Additional precautions including practicable steps to prevent smoking, and staffing levels.

Parliamentary Early Day Motion 549, tabled by John McDonnell after the London bombings and signed to date by 64 MPs

EDM 549 - Fire Precautions Regulations

In the name of John McDonnell and 63 others:

That this House condemns the terrorist attacks on London's public transport network and commends the bravery and professionalism of the emergency services, London Underground, national rail network and London bus service workers who were on hand to provide assistance and support in the immediate aftermath of the attacks; notes that the Government is set to review the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989, introduced following the Fennell Report into the 1987 King's Cross Fire disaster; further notes that the Regulations set out minimum standards for fire precautions in sub-surface railway stations including means of escape, means of fighting fire, minimum staffing levels and staff instruction and training; believes that these minimum standards are even more essential in light of the recent terrorist attacks; and calls on the Government to retain in full the 1989 Regulations

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Government holds back on Section 12 attack

Published on: Sat, 21/01/2006 - 11:49

The government has announced that it will delay its attempts to scrap 'Section 12' fire safety regulations for sub-surface railway stations.

Governments are not known for backing down on a whim, so this is surely the result of campaigning by the unions, in particular RMT, ASLEF and the FBU.

The key word, though, is "delay", as against "abandon". So we have to keep up our campaigning.

It seems sad that just as the RMT celebrates this success, it is backing down from the fight to stop unsafe cuts in stations staffing levels.

Read RMT's press release here.

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Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 23/01/2006 - 21:58

This from RMT HQ


I am writing to advise you that supportive MPs have secured a parliamentary debate on the future of the railway fire safety regulations which were introduced after the 1987 Kings Cross Fire.

The debate has been secured by Celia Barlow MP and will take place on 25th January. it is open to the public and will begin at 9.30am in Committee Room 10 in the main House of Commons building. Members wishing to attend should go the main public entrance at the House of Commons and advise the police that they are attending the adjournment debate in Committee Room 10.

If you do wish to attend I would also advise you to arrive twenty minutes before the start of the debate to allow yourself good time to clear House of Commons security and get to the Committee Room.

The debate comes shortly after the Government announced that they will be delaying the abolition of the regulations. The government had previously said that it would allow the ‘Section 12’ regulations to continue in operation for at least six months after the introduction of the new and less specific Fire Safety Order. However, ministers have now indicated that the new Order will itself be delayed, for a minimum of three months and perhaps until October. That could leave the existing regulations in place until April 2007.

We hope the government will now use the delay to think again about the wisdom of abolishing specific fire-safety measures in favor of what amounts to a discretionary approach.

To keep up the pressure please also don’t forget to ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 549, click here.

Yours sincerely

Bob Crow
General Secretary

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Protest to defend Section 12

Published on: Wed, 02/11/2005 - 13:54

The government is once again trying to water down our fire safety regulations.

The 'Section 12' regulations came into force in 1989 in the wake of the King's Cross fire two years previously. They include: minimum staffing levels; staff training requirements; detection, compartmentation and suppression; means of escape; and several other crucial laws.

But New Labour seems to think that these can be replaced by a regime of 'self-regulation', where London Underground gets to decide the rules itself through risk assessment process. Tony's cronies reckon that Section 12 is 'too proscriptive'. But fire safety laws should be proscriptive - lives are at stake.

LUL, functioning as a business, will be under commercial pressure to assess the risks as less severe than they actually are, and so to cut back on safety measures, risking the lives of staff and passengers.

If the legal regulations are weakened, expect to see minimum staffing levels cuts, training standards, slacken, stations kept open when fire-fighting systems fail, etc etc etc.

RMT, ASLEF and the FBU have called a national demonstration in defence of fire safety laws on Saturday 26 November at 11.30am outside King's Cross station. Speakers will include RMT general secretary Bob Crow, Aslef general secretary Keith Norman, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, John McDonnell MP and TUC south-east regional secretary Mick Connolly.

For more details - and downloadable publicity - click here.

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Defend fire safety: union to demonstrate

Published on: Sun, 18/09/2005 - 22:14

As regular readers will know, the government has been trying its hand at abolishing Section 12. As all Tube workers will know - but some earwigging readers may not - Section 12 is the name we give to the Fire Precautions (Sub-Surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989. That's the law introduced in the wake of the death of 30+ people in the 1987 Kings Cross fire, and which includes: minimum staffing levels, means of escape, staff training standards, means of detecting, containing and warning of fire, and more besides.

Instead, New Labour reckons we can do with a fire safety regime based only on risk assessment.

So basically, the government plans to insult the memory of those who died and to endanger passengers and workers in the future. And for what? Probably it might save London Underground Ltd a bit of money. And cash is something they are short of, particularly given that successive governments have starved them of it for years, and what dosh they do have goes towards stuff like Bob Kiley's £2m mansion and team-building trips to posh hotels for managers.

Anyways, as part of the campaign to defend the law, RMT has called a national demonstration on Saturday 26 November at 11am, outside Kings Cross station.

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Submitted by Tubeworker on Sat, 24/09/2005 - 13:45

Please note the revised date for this protest. It was originally scheduled for 18 November, but will now go ahead on 26 November.

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