Dampener on safety of firefighters
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.