Firefighter wellbeing lacking in report: UFU

A UNITED Firefighters Union official has labelled discussions concerning firefighters in the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Report as minimal.

With a 20-year health study to be carried out with Latrobe Valley residents, Mick Tisbury, a firefighter who fought the February blaze, believes firefighters have been ignored and should be included in the study.

“There’s no mention at all about the firefighters who were exposed to higher levels of carbon monoxide and products of combustion,” Mr Tisbury said.

“We’ve been exposed to benzene, (poly aromatic hydrocarbon) and ozone which are all carcinogens.”

In total, 14 fire service firefighters and 12 GDF Suez staff presented to hospital due to exposure to carbon monoxide, however none required admission.

Recommendations included an increased number of firefighters and training in the development of protocol surrounding carbon monoxide exposure.

Mr Tisbury said while both recommendations were valid, he doubted the State Government would implement them.

“We’ve been vindicated, that’s another Inquiry, another report to sit next to the Black Saturday report; every big fire there seems to be another Inquiry and a list of recommendations that never get implemented,” Mr Tisbury said.

He said it was likely the ” minimal” information in the report was due to another firefighter health report currently being conducted by WorkCover.

“A lot of the health and safety issues weren’t addressed in this report because it was outside of their jurisdiction and it’s covered by WorkCover,” Mr Tisbury said.

The report also discussed the Country Fire Authority’s failure to sign off on a Draft Carbon Monoxide Regional Operating Procedure developed following a mine fire in 2006.

During the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry public hearings, Chief Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley conceded with counsel the report should have been signed off, but was still used as a guide during the fire.

Although the carbon monoxide exposure standard for firefighters was higher than that recommended by the World Health Organisation, the board found it was reasonable given the mine was a workplace and fire services and mine employees were not exposed for more than eight hours at a time.

Tighter rules on full health disclosure for firefighters with respiratory or cardiac conditions or those who are pregnant were also recommended.