We are very pleased once again to say that Brian Harris, Principal, has contributed to another article featured by Firehouse. Brian Harris and Michelle Copeland have written Part 3 of this 6-part series with an excerpt below from their article on Firehouse. Click the link at the bottom of our blog post to read the full article.
"In Part 3 of this 6-part series, we examine the first and perhaps most critical step in managing exposure to diesel exhaust and carcinogenic/chemical hazards in your facilities. The initial evaluation of your operation should consider your safety management systems, as discussed in Part 2, and should also address the physical layout and condition of your station, the age and condition of your apparatus, and concerns expressed by your firefighters, union or community.
The late comic Irwin Corey once stated, “If we don’t change direction soon, we will end up where we are going.” Well, we have finally changed direction, in the sense that firefighter safety and contaminant awareness is one of the top concerns not only of responders but also of decision makers. However, given that we’ve changed direction in our awareness, how do we go further to change the direction of our decisions and actions and their consequences? Where do we go with our increased awareness?
Recognizing long-term problems
We spoke with a West Coast captain who recognizes that research studies have shown that, just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean that it might not hurt us in the long-term. He told us that the bottom line is that we want to extend the lives of firefighters and it’s a disservice to our employees if this is not a primary focus.
So, to make this a primary focus, let’s begin by conducting a thorough initial evaluation of your safety management program and of your operation overall. In terms of your safety management program, ask yourself, “Have we clearly identified the responsibilities of management and line personnel, as well as program administrators and support staff? Is our safety management program a line-owned and driven program?” If not, then that is a necessary starting point.
Next, ask “Does our safety program address diesel exhaust and other chemical hazards not only during fire response but in the station, in other settings, and under more varying conditions?”
- Have we built standards for chemical safety into our equipment maintenance procedures, fire overhaul procedures, training exercises, and management of hoses, and personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.?
- Do we treat chemical hazards, outside of the fire response, as equal in priority to other kinds of safety and health hazards?
- Have we done any air testing for diesel exhaust or other airborne carcinogens to which our firefighters may be exposed, in the station and in the field, with an emphasis on those times when they are not wearing SCBA protection?"