AUSTRALIA- SOUTH Australian firefighters have been ordered to wear cupped respirators when fighting bushfires, following the release of new national guidelines.
SA Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton issued an alert to all brigades and volunteers last month stating: “It is now mandatory for all CFS volunteers to wear these masks when attending a bushfire.”
Chief Nettleton said the new masks were introduced to bring the CFS in line with Australasian Fire and Emergency Authority Council’s recommendations for the use of disposable respirators to curb the risks from inhaling smoke.
The SA chief’s decision raises questions as to whether the CFA will adopt a similar policy, given it is also an AFAC member.
However, Victoria’s CFA responded to questions on the issue by simply stating P2 masks were issued to everyone for operational use.
“Training is provided on its appropriate usage as it does with all protective equipment issued,” a spokesman said.
CFA standard operating procedures state personal protective equipment is required to be worn correctly if engaging in operational activities. But the CFA failed to say whether it would follow SA’s lead on masks.
AFAC’s guidelines states: “smoke from bushfires is known to contain hundreds of chemicals some of which may cause health issues because they are either hazardous or present at elevated levels.
“The toxins of most concern to those involved in dealing with bushfires are carbon monoxide, respirable particles, aldehydes and volatile organic compounds”.
“Under health and safety legislation, it is a requirement — so far as is reasonably practicable — that the health and safety of workers is not put at risk from the work they carry out.”