Category: WHS

RED Friday Organization is stepping up to help

You have seen our firefighters battling the bushfires on the news. Now, some of our these brave men and women have another battle to fight against PTSD and other forms of Operational Stress Injury.

Through funding campaigns, the RED Friday Organization is stepping up to help safeguard the mental health of our Firefighters.

This video may help to shed some light on the current situation.

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AFAC documentation – Respiratory Protection

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.

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“Chewing smoke” Are volunteer firefighters getting the protection they need?

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.

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Risk Management – Bushfire Context

Risk management strategies are widely used by all people in the modern world and the hierarchy of controls has become standard practice.

As fires are becoming larger, the risks associated with firefighting operations are also increasing. Aviation is being used at huge cost (financially) and the recent accident involving an Aircrane firefighting helicopter is a reminder of the risks for both aviation and ground crews.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during this aviation incident.

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Projects ahead of People

Whilst we are enjoying our Christmas and New Year break, let’s not forget that there are many people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

We recently celebrated a win for all firefighters (full time, part time and volunteers) with the introduction of compensation for firefighters who contract one of 12 cancers from September 27, 2018.

In a press conference held in Orange (November 2018), former Orange firefighter Trevor Eassie revealed the struggles he has endured after contracting leukaemia at work and not receiving any financial compensation.

Read more and watch the press release video…

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Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) – Volunteers Overlooked

The VFFA received an email from a member, suggesting that the HSR program for volunteers has not been properly addressed by the NSW RFS.

The RFS has published the following key HSR election dates:

12 September to 8 October 2018 – Notice of Election sent to members and HSR nominations open
5 November 2018 – Ballot papers posted to members
10 December 2018 – Voting closes at 12:00pm
31 January 2019 – Results of HSR elections announced by this date
1 March 2019 – Elected HSRs commence their three year term

The VFFA is concerned that the period (12 September to 8 October 2018) is insufficient time to properly advertise this important program to all volunteers across the state.

The RFS is seeking to fill 47 HRS positions for NSW.

The VFFA is concerned that 47 HSR’s across the state is simply a compliance exercise designed to appease the legislation and SafeWork NSW is allowing it.

FRNSW have over 100 HSR’s for their 22,000 membership.

The RFS claims to have over 70,000 volunteers. Even at a more realistic figure of 20,000 volunteers fighting fires, the number of HSR’s should be greater than 47.

The RFS claims to have 47 work places (Districts). The VFFA does not feel that 47 work places is an accurate representation of actual work places within this diverse organisation.

Do you want to help make your fire fighting workplace a safer, healthier and cohesive workplace?

Do you want to make a real change in your workplace in ensuring compliance to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act)?

Become a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and help make your workplace a safer and healthier place to be.

If there is more than one nomination for one position an election needs to take place.

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Petition to Protect our Protectors (10,000 signatures required)

Philip Donato, the Hon. Phillip Donato, Member for Orange, has distributed a petition throughout the emergency services which has been enthusiastically received.

The petition will bring to the attention of the Legislative Assembly of NSW Parliament the urgent need to protect our emergency services by introducing an enforceable 40 km/h speed limit for the vicinities of emergency service personnel operating on or near roadways.

The petition is fully supported by the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, The Rural Fire Service Association, NSW Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and the Police Association of NSW.

Police, Fire and RFS officers have already started signing.

Philip Donato has invited the entire community to support the men and women of the emergency services by signing the petition. When the requisite 10,000 signatures has been obtained, Mr Donato will table it in parliament and will vigorously debate the issue.

It is important that we obtain original signatures for Mr Donato.

You can help by printing the petition document, gathering signatures and posting the original (signed copies) to the VFFA Media Officer at PO Box 359, Terrey Hills. NSW 2084.

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