Paul Smith, NZFS
The New Zealand Fire Service, UFBA and NZPFU are working together to reduce frontline staff exposure to carcinogens and other harmful substances in the workplace.
There have been several accomplishments in this area and a series of pilots have started.
As part the Workplace Carcinogen Exposure Programme, an operational evaluation of various respiratory protective equipment (RPE) was undertaken last March with the intention of supplying frontline staff with respiratory protection when BA is not appropriate.
The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the various potential RPE solutions to ensure it is fit for purpose. Each RPE item was subjected to a testing evaluation designed by the Operational Evaluation Group, which has been formed to test new equipment and procedures prior to introduction.
The NZPFU, UFBA, PSA and EFOS are all represented in the group, along with operational fire fighters, fire investigators and the Fire Service National Operations team.
The Operational Evaluation Group met again in May to discuss the results of the operational evaluation and formulate a recommendation.
On 22 July the Fire Service Operational Leadership Team (OLT) approved the RPE recommendation paper, which was previously ratified by the WCEP Steering Committee.
The recommendation paper will next go to the Fire Service Strategic Leadership Team (SLT).
Policy and procedures for RPE use
The development of the policy and procedures for RPE use and management of contaminated PPE and equipment were completed on 23 July at a policy review workshop with the Operational Evaluation Group.
The new policy and procedures will be part of the pilots described below prior to final approval and implementation.
An advocacy group comprised of frontline staff has also been set up and will be instrumental in supporting the regions and areas in the use of the new equipment and procedures.
The advocacy group met in late June/early July to discuss the operational rollout of the selected RPE and provide feedback on awareness campaign designs.
Housing of appliances
The housing of appliances has raised concerns in regards to the potential health effects associated with exhaust fume exposure.
A five-year national rolling programme of work, the National Vehicle Exhaust Fume Management Programme, has been developed by Property and approved by NZFS in late 2014 following extensive consultation through the National Health and Wellbeing Committee and directly with the UFBA.
Appliance Bay Ventilation Guidelines, developed in consultation with consultant engineers, were published on the FireNet Property page in January 2015.
A national audit of current solutions in fire stations was completed and implementation is currently being piloted in Region 5 by Property.
The programme has a three-step policy to mitigate the risk of vehicle fumes in fire stations:
- Every New Zealand Service fire station will have a vehicle fume management solution in place (System, Action Plan or Both)
- Where required, fire appliances will have a standardised vehicle fume management system in place
- A national rollout over a five-year term will be undertaken with site prioritisation determined by a risk based model.
A series of pilots have started to test new RPE, processes, and procedures prior to final approval, procurement, and implementation.
The first pilot started on 6 August at a station in Whanganui and will be followed by stations in Southland, Counties Manukau, and the West Coast to October.
The aim of these specific pilots is to validate and refine delivery and use of the following, before they are rolled-out to stations across the country in the months to come:
- New RPE for frontline personnel to use when BA is not appropriate
- New and amended policies and procedures, including those tied to the new Fire Station Design Guidelines, designed to segregate clean and dirty processes
- Training and awareness material.
Also, a pilot has started at nine stations in Region 5 to test the assessment framework used to determine what solutions fire stations require when it comes to vehicle exhaust fume management.
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