TWFRS and FBU hold joint DECON seminar to discuss how to reduce contaminants and improve firefighter safety

A leading professor has praised a North East fire service for their commitment to firefighter safety and innovation.

This week, Professor Anna Stec from the University of Central Lancashire provided insight into the importance of reducing contaminants and improving safety to firefighters, fire service staff and members of the public.

In an event ran by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) local representatives, Professor Stec addressed a number of issues facing firefighters and fire service staff when it comes to safety and contaminants.

The session focused on striving towards excellence in firefighter safety for both employers and employees, an issue that is complex and cannot be addressed overnight.

However TWFRS are incredibly passionate about building on the progress they have made to date and strive through partnership to improve safety.

She said “I’m amazed and astonished to see how much progress has been made on contaminants and how the topic has been taken seriously – it was above my expectations.

“Working with organisations like TWFRS and the FBU is bringing practicality rather than only the scientific world and working together we can actually make a change.”

And today (Thursday) TWFRS’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer Peter Heath has thanked the professor for an opportunity to discuss how to improve.

DCFO Heath said “We take firefighter safety incredible seriously and want explore every opportunity to make their livelihoods as safe as possible.

“We have already invested in education, process redesign, engineered solutions and of course our staff to drive down risk and improve safety.

“I want to thank Professor Stec for providing valuable insight and the opportunity to learn more about the importance of the drive to reduce exposure to contaminants and ensure firefighters and other staff can live a long and health life.

“I also want to thank the local Fire Brigades Union representatives Wayne Anderson and Chris Cook for all their hard work alongside us in getting this event set up, it’s been so beneficial to our staff and without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Riccardo la Torre, FBU national officer, said “DECON is our pioneering training and research project on fire contaminants, and the impact they have in terms of firefighter cancer and other diseases.

“It gives services tools to do the urgent work of protecting their people. It has made a tangible difference in so many fire stations, with DECON posters across the walls and providing guidance that often wasn’t in place before.

“We are very pleased to see Tyne and Wear Fire Service making use of DECON.

“We look forward to continuing to work with them in the future to further embed DECON.”

“TWFRS have already taken a number of steps to incorporate Professor Stec’s advice into their firefighter’s everyday lives.

This includes investing in new appliances that offer clean cab technology and particulate monitoring within the cabs, the creation of an allocated decontamination locker on fire appliances to store dirty PPE and equipment, welfare decontamination packs on station for those firefighter returning from difficult incidents.

However, it starts with our Service Training Centre where the risks and safe working practices are part of development training alongside the strict adherence to personal decontamination and welfare to minimise the risk from contaminants.

Further investment in Breathing Apparatus washing machines is reducing the need for firefighters and maintenance staff having to manually carry out this task after fires.

Looking ahead, TWFRS have planning permission to build a new fire station that will not only be carbon neutral but designed to minimise the spread and threat from fire contaminants and products of combustion.

TWFRS have come a long way but are just at the start of a journey towards safer workplaces.

For more information, please visit TWFRS’s website.