Members of the emergency services are inevitably exposed to danger by the very nature of their jobs, but that in no way lessens their employers' health and safety obligations. In a case on point, the mother of a fireman who died from injuries suffered whilst fighting a blaze received substantial compensation.
The fireman succumbed to hypoxia and heat exhaustion after tackling a fire in a hair salon. His mother launched proceedings against the fire and rescue service that employed him. They alleged that the cause of his death was a failure to take reasonable care to ensure that his use of breathing apparatus and full protective equipment did not exceed a maximum of 20 minutes.
Following an inquest into his death, the service made a full admission of liability and agreed to pay his mother £80,000 in settlement of her claim. That sum reflected her loss of financial dependency on her son and other losses arising from his death. The agreement did away with what would otherwise have been the need for her and other members of the family to endure the trauma of a contested trial.
The facts of the case emerged after the High Court rejected the service's appeal against an order requiring it to pay the reasonable costs incurred by the mother's legal team at the inquest. It was in principle proportionate and reasonable for the service to pay those costs in that the outcome of the inquest might have had an important bearing on the success of the mother's claim.