Health and Safety Management at Fire Stations

Health and Safety Management at Fire Stations

The work place I share with my colleagues is a fire station.  The fire station is only a base as most of our work is done in a very dangerous environment.

The environment that we work in has various levels of danger, a simple chimney fire to a two vehicle collision involving a home heating delivery van.  We can be asked to rescue farm animals or somebodies mother, father, sister, brother, but worst of all, their child.   From call to call there is no notice, no warning and normally little or no information. Sometimes, we go into situations which test us because of the environment or the conditions, unfortunately there are times it can be both.

The only way to give the best possible outcome is to ensure that all the team work as one and this comes down to constant training and the ability to talk things out. We as a team,  not by luck or by chance but by training in every aspect of our job, not by just learning a drill on a specific procedure or piece of equipment or activity, but through practice with drills and exercises,  endeavour to reach a successful conclusion in any given situation.

The reasons fire fighters have the ability to remain calm, keeping fatalities and injuries to a very low level,  no matter what the situation, is because of they follow three golden rules,  for any situation

  • Dynamic Risk Assessments
  • Procedures
  • Safe Operating Guidelines.

The success in any area is not given by your achievements but your ability to review how you could have improved situations that did not go to plan. Our procedure to do a detailed debrief, which complies Health and Safety Procedures, after every incident, going through all aspects of the call, sometimes to pick holes in ourselves, at an in-house level, we can improve and support each other for future calls, where we may face a similar situation, asking ourselves

  • What we did well
  • How did we achieve that level
  • What things we could have done differently
  • How to improve should this happen again.

All this is no good if we do not record, report and most of all share these experiences for future training for fire fighters.

Scenario: Delivery of Chemicals to Fire Station

Product:

Janitol, which is an oil cleaning agent used for oil spills on roads at car accidents etc. and a delivery of

Sthamex class A Foam which is used as a fire fighting agent.

As the station is un-maned most of the time the delivery of two pallets each containing four 200 litre barrels, the station officer is required to delegate two of the crew to move the barrels from the side of the station to the bottom of the drill yard where they are left until used.

One of the two crew members reports a muscle injury while doing the task, as this went to the station officer and to the health and safety authority, due to time scale, subsequently the station was scheduled for a visit by the health and safety inspector.

As the health and safety representative I was required to carry out a full risk assessment and review the current procedures relating moving 200 litre barrels.  After looking at the accident report form and interviewing the two crew members I reviewed the task which was carried out and the area where it was done, I also looked at our safety statement which I thought was very comprehensive however did not include situations such as this.   Due to this I then referred to the chemical data sheets.  There was nothing put in place about the manual handling of barrels.  The old manual handling procedure of steering a 200 litre barrel on its edge in an ad-hoc manner, which, especially with in the fire service, just isn’t good enough.  I began my research with a visit to the Health and Safety Authority web site www.HSA.ie to refer to the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005.  Under this act the chemical agent regulations 2001 and subsequently 2015 point out the specific requirements necessary to complete a chemical agents risk assessment for the work place.  A general assessment is unlikely to meet the requirements of the legislation.  This led me to review the General Application Regulation 2007.

I found that this web site very comprehensive and easy to use.  While in our station we have a good safety statement, good safety arrangements and information, forms and records, (which is why we got to this stage with a visit from a HAS inspector), the risk assessment and controls for the manual handling and storage of Janitol and Sthamex foam were somehow badly managed.

The health and safety web site was very good at explaining the legislation relating to health and safety the duties of the employers and for the employees.  Some of the key areas for the employers are the requirements for the control of safety and health at work.

  • The management, organisation and the systems of work to achieve these goals.
  • The responsibilities and roles of employers, employees, self-employed and others.
  • The enforcement procedures needed to ensure that the goals are met.
  • Other employers responsibilities are properly designed and maintained within place of work
  • Provide safe egress and access
  • Safe plant and machinery
  • Safe systems of work
  • Provide information and training
  • Provide personal protective clothing
  • Provide plans for emergencies
  • Provide competent work force and have a safety statement of which is reviewed on at regular intervals.

Some of the key responsibilities and roles of the employees are

  • to accept any training or instruction provided
  • report any defective equipment
  • to wear all personal protective clothing and equipment
  • take care of themselves and to others – not to interfere with equipment
  • co-operate with the employer in relation to health and safety issues
  • not to claim they have health and safety issues when they do not, nor to engage in improper conduct or horse play
  • To ensure that they are not under the influence of an intoxicant drink or drugs.

In my research I also found the general application resolution 2007, in particular part II, Chapter 4 manual handling of loads – set a framework for employers to avoid or reduce manual handling load activity. Employers must assess their manual handling operations and take steps to avoid or reduce the risk of injury. – This can be avoided by the introduction of appropriate organisational measures such as improved layout of work areas to replace unnecessary long carrying distances and use of appropriate means, in particular mechanical equipment.

After doing a risk assessment using the tile process

  • T-Task
  • I – individual capability,
  • L-load,
  • E- Environment

Question: Can the delivery of barrels be left near the bottom of the drill yard by the delivery truck instead of being left at the side of the station? The answer is yes.  By making sure a crew member is at the station to meet the delivery truck at a pre-arranged time to open the side gate to allow access to the bottom of the drill yard, so no manual handling is needed this eliminates injuries to crew members.

The loads – eight 200 litre barrels – how often are they delivered to the station in a year?  Maybe two or three times?

The environment is a concreate yard which is on a slope but has no public access therefore traffic is restricted to fire fighters on call or during drills, after a drill is the yard a safe place to keep chemical drums?  Is there any precaution made for plastic barrels being damaged while in storage? Answer is no.

After researching storage of the two chemicals by using the chemical data sheets from the chemical companies and the health and safety authority web site, I was made aware that we should use a chemical storage shed to store the barrels of chemicals in safely and to do this we need to have a procedure in place to stop spills this can be done by the use of spill trays which are large enough to hold all of the spillage.

A mechanical device is also needed to transport the 200 litre barrels into the shed and on to the spill trays, the mechanical device I found best suited for this was a drum truck DE palletiser – www.liftrite.ie one person could do this job but as a fire service safe operating guide lines two person would be detail to this task.  The chemical storage shed would need good lighting, good signage, Chemical Hazard sign, PPE signage full work and safety signage full work and safety data sheets to be kept in station office with safety statement.

Training for all fire fighters, to be given during a Tuesday practice night, for the use of drum truck DE palletiser, with a safe operating guide line to be issued.

Costings for Chemical Storage Shed Euro

Shed – Electrical Lighting 3000.00
Truck / DE palletiser 600.00
Training 560.00

To maintain compliance for the above, which is a fraction of the cost of a claim against the fire service insurance, an update record needs to be kept in place.  Most of all it would prevent the human cost of serious and maybe career ending injury or at worst loss of life.  The fire service has adopted this in all fire stations in the county, the time frame set by the Health and Safety Committee was six months.

References

Appendix

  • Safety signs
  • Risk Assessment Matrix
  • Product Data Safety Sheets

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