After breathing apparatus failed yet again, firefighters in Dundalk say: We MUST be given gear that’s up to standard. Until then, local lives are at risk
SOURCE REVEALS PROBLEMS WITH BREATHING APPARATUS
FIREFIGHTERS in Louth have ‘ lost confidence’ in the breathing apparatus (BA) they are supplied with after one failed while a fireman was inside a burning building recently, the Argus can reveal.
And the situation is so serious that firefighters indicated at the weekend they would consider industrial action if the council fails to deal with this health and safety issue head-on.
A source has given details to the Argus of the BA failure, which happened on November 16 while firefighters from Dundalk station were responding to a call to a house fire in the town. The source said: ‘ The BA set worn by one of the firefighters who was in the building failed resulting in the firefighter losing his air supply.
‘ This is a very serious issue and thankfully on the day in question the firefighter was only a short distance inside the house and was able to make a hasty retreat out to open air and remove his facemask in order to breathe again.
‘Had the penetration into the building by the BA team had been any deeper, this could have resulted in serious injury or death as the BA set is a life-supporting piece of equipment that firefighters must have 100% confidence in so that they can enter a burning building or toxic atmosphere and be assured that they will have a supply of fresh air’.
And this was not, according to the source, an isolated incident. ‘A similar situation happened earlier in 2016 during a training exercise at Dundalk fire station when another firefighter’s set failed in the same manner, but thankfully, the training was conducted in a controlled environment so no injury was sustained on that occasion’.
In the wake of these incidents, ‘ the situation in fire stations across Louth is that firefighters have lost confidence in the BA sets used in Louth and in many stations around the country’.
It is understood that the problem centres on the failure of a connection on the house supplying the air to the facemask and it comes apart when the set was in use.
Louth County Council is aware of the problem, the Argus can confirm, though when asked for a response to the allegations made by the source, the council stated: ‘ This matter is currently under investigation and therefore Louth County Council will be making no comment at this time’.
The Health and Safety Authority said that while they are not carrying out an investigation they ‘ have engaged with Louth County Council Fire and Rescue Services in relation to occupational safety and health issues and cannot make any further comment at this stage’.
The source said that firefighters are fearful ‘ that if such a failure were to happen again, we might not be so lucky with the outcome . . . each time a firefighter puts on a BA to go into a burning building, the question is in the back of their minds: ‘will my set fail this time?’
The source added that personnel are concerned about the length of time the council is taking to investigate the problem. ‘Firefighters want this most serious issue resolved so that they can once again have confidence in this piece of equipment that they rely on so much in order to perform their duty of care to the general public’.
In addition, fire personnel had been assured that the BA would be sent to the UK for ‘ independent testing’ but as of last week, this had not been done, the source alleged.
The source added: ‘ A large number of firefighters attended the meeting on Saturday despite the meeting being called at short notice. There were quite a number present at the meeting who voiced their discontent with the lack of action and lack of information available from Louth County Council.
‘ The meeting concluded with a vote been taken for some form of industrial action to be taken by firefighters if there was no action seen to be taken by Louth County Council’.
A file photograph of a firefighter wearing a breathing apparatus.