Fire, land management and emergency workers can be exposed to a range of hazards and risks when completing work tasks. These may vary depending on the incident type, the urgency of response and environmental conditions.
Given the nature of emergency response work, it has been acknowledged that established safe work practices and risk management approaches that apply in non-emergency situations may not be appropriate to use while responding to an emergency. Additionally, the practice of prescribed burning gives rise to situations where it is impossible for workers to avoid some exposure to bushfire smoke. Agencies have an obligation to ensure that their responders are protected from hazards, as far as reasonably practicable, regardless of whether they are responding to an emergency or not.
Bushfire smoke is dangerous. It’s full of tiny suspended fine particulate matter, measuring only 2.5 micrometres (written as PM2.5). To get an idea of how small that is, a micrometre is 1000 times smaller than a millimetre. Particles that size easily get into your lungs and cause inflammation, resulting in symptoms like itchiness, coughing, watery eyes and sneezing. They get into your bloodstream and affect your respiratory, cardiovascular and immune systems and change your body’s chemical functions.
Also present in bushfire smoke are toxic contaminants like carbon monoxide, respiratory irritants (particles, formaldehyde, acrolein) and volatile organic compounds (like benzene).
That’s concerning when it’s just for a few days a year, but now that many firefighters have already clocked up over 100 days and the summer’s not yet over, there’s a debate about whether enough is being done to protect them.
Registrations are open for the Bush Search and Rescue NSW, Navshield event on 22-23 June 2019. Registration closes on Saturday 15 June 2019. The Navshield events are a great way to build your network of friends whilst you learn, practice and refine your navigation skills.
The NSW RFS is conducting a number of Code of Conduct and Ethics training workshops in 2018.
The VFFA congratulates the NSW RFS, Professional Standards Unit on this initiative. We encourage members to attend these workshops.
The workshops are interactive and provide an opportunity to discuss the Code and how it applies to brigade life. Learning occurs through instruction, large and small group activities and sharing of member experiences.
Vegetation Management Officer Phil Hawkey describes himself as “on a journey” as he increases his knowledge of Aboriginal traditional burning.
It began three years ago when Phil attended a traditional burning workshop in Orange, New South Wales.
“That was the lightbulb moment,” says Phil, “I tell people I’ve found something new that’s 30,000 years old. It’s done with method, with science, with great care,”
His knowledge took a giant step forward when he attended a traditional burning workshop in Cape York with Group Officer Len Timmins. Then in its ninth year, each workshop moves location. It means that, for his return to Cape York this month, there will be new lessons to learn amid different topography and vegetation.
This post raises several concerns, the foremost being the proposal that the cost of attending an outsourced first aid course be borne by the Brigade(s).
The following questions have been posted:
Does the NSW RFS desire to have as many members as possible qualified in first aid?
Is the proposal for Brigades of the NSW RFS to meet costs for outsourced courses approved or sanctioned by the NSW RFS?
Is there a proposal for the costs of other courses such as chainsaw being covered by Brigades and/or individual members?
Was the issue discussed with volunteer training groups and if so what was the outcome?
It goes without saying that our firefighters cannot escape some degree of work in elevated / hot conditions. As firefighters we put a range of control measures in place including: PPE / PPC that provides some degree of thermal protection.