27 September 2023

New plans to protect firies from cancer

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Firefighters are to be better protected from exposure to dangerous carcinogens with Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) rolling out world-leading decontamination technology and new fire station designs.

Commissioner of FRNSW, Paul Baxter said the initiatives were part of the Clean Firefighter, Clean Appliance and Clean Buildings Plan which outlined the risks confronting frontline Fire and Rescue staff and took appropriate action.

“Any firefighter will tell you they have known for a long time that they are exposed to a nasty concoction of carcinogenic substances, but as an organisation, we wanted to know what more we could do to reduce those exposure risks,” Commissioner Baxter said.

“The international research into cancer risks to firefighters continues but in the meantime we have a blueprint to proceed with to protect our people.

“Together we are transforming the hygiene of our fire stations, uniforms, trucks and importantly how we operate as well.

“This is resulting in a practical and positive influence on our people’s safety.”

Commissioner Baxter said the Plan would see all firefighters provided with new structural protective clothing, new design guidelines for fire stations, and existing stations retrofitted with designated wash areas to control the spread of contaminants.

He said a new laundry app would also be rolled out to streamline the decontamination process for firefighters’ clothing, while research would continue into exposure and decontamination education, guidelines and procedures.

Welcoming the Plan, the Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, Steph Cooke said FRNSW was leading the world in providing state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and practices to safeguard firefighters from harmful toxins.

“There was once a time firefighters considered a uniform covered in ash and soot to be a ‘badge of honour’ but now we have a greater understanding of the risks of carcinogens, it’s important we take steps to safeguard our frontline responders,” Ms Cooke said.

“This new program is the first of its kind of any fire service in the world and is the culmination of four years of hard work,” she said.

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