Dam­p­ener on safety of fire­fight­ers

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - MIRANDA DEVINE - LINDA SILMALIS

FIRE­FIGHT­ERS who are urged to “shower within the hour” of at­tend­ing a blaze to re­duce their can­cer risk are be­ing ham­pered by sub­stan­dard or male-only bath­room fa­cil­i­ties.

With grow­ing con­cerns at the in­creased health risk fire­fight­ers face from toxic par­ti­cles, fire au­thor­i­ties have been im­ple­ment­ing “clean zones” and more rigid show­er­ing rules.

But the fire union says the prac­tice is be­ing im­peded by in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties, es­pe­cially for the in­creas­ing num­ber of fe­male re­cruits who are forced to share with men.

The sit­u­a­tion was worse in coun­try towns such as Blayney, where fa­cil­i­ties only cater for males, ac­cord­ing to the NSW Fire Bri­gade Em­ploy­ees Union.

The re­gional sta­tion has only one shower for its 12-strong crew while the lone fe­male fire­fighter doesn’t even have a chang­ing area, union boss Leighton Drury said.

At other sta­tions, fe­male fire­fight­ers have put up blan­kets and cur­tains for pri­vacy where the lone toi­let is in the same room as the sin­gle shower.

“We called for fund­ing for a cap­i­tal up­grade at the last Bud­get but got knocked back,” Mr Drury said. “If you only have one bath­room and six fire­fight­ers on a job, it’s go­ing to be hard to shower within the hour.

“My un­der­stand­ing is the fe­male fire­fighter at Blayney is hav­ing to walk down to the lo­cal Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice to change. Stud­ies show fire­fight­ers have an in­creased can­cer risk and so proper show­er­ing fa­cil­i­ties are an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity.”

The plea for sta­tion up­grades comes amid a bat­tle be­tween the union and the state gov­ern­ment over its pro­posed new work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion laws to make it eas­ier for fire­fight­ers with can­cer to make a claim.

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