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Firefighters raise concerns after breathing equipment ‘collapses’

Dublin Fire Brigade has said it will retrain firefighters after newly-issued oxygen sets failed on several occasions.

The breathing apparatus used by Dublin Fire Brigade
The breathing apparatus used by Dublin Fire Brigade
Image: IFESA

Updated with pictures, 1.07pm

A UNION REPRESENTING firefighters in Dublin has raised serious concerns about breathing equipment which entered service last year, saying it has failed in several emergency situations.

Face masks associated with the new breathing apparatus has collapsed in on firefighters’ faces on six occasions, leaving them without an oxygen supply, the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association said.

An IFESA spokesperson told TheJournal.ie: “Basically, in October of last year there were new [breathing] sets introduced in Dublin Fire Brigade, because the old sets had reached the end of their shelf life.” He continued:

There have been a total of six unexplained occurrences while firefighters were wearing the sets. What happens is the face mask collapses in on the firefighter.

He said such collapses occurred when the air supply was interrupted. Four of the incidents had happened as firefighters attended incidents, with two during training, the spokesperson said.

IFESA has supplied pictures of ice building up on air tubes forming part of the apparatus, which they believe could be a possible factor in the failures:

Firefighters raise concerns after breathing equipment ‘collapses’
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  • Problems with firefighters' breathing apparatus

  • Problems with firefighters' breathing apparatus

  • Problems with firefighters' breathing apparatus

  • Problems with firefighters' breathing apparatus

All pictures courtesy of IFESA

The IFESA spokesperson said the failures may not be due to the mask itself, but could be a “systemic fault” related to how the sets are filled with air using a compressor. The union believes inadequate training was given to firefighters before they began using the sets.

IFESA said it has written to the Health and Safety Authority outlining its concerns, and requested a consultation with Dublin Fire Brigade and the city council. “To date they [the council and fire brigade] have failed” to meet with the union, the spokesperson said.

In a statement, Dublin Fire Brigade acknowledged there had been a “relatively small number of issues” with the new sets, which it attributed to “teething problems and lack of familiarity with certain features” of the sets. It said retraining would be undertaken.

The HSA confirmed that they had received correspondence from firefighters, and said the matter was under “active consideration”.

Dublin Fire Brigade also added that Dublin firefighters are officially represented by Siptu and Impact unions. “IFESA do not have negotiation rights within Dublin Fire Brigade and have consistently sought to exploit difficulties either real or perceived within the Fire Service over the past two years for the purposes of gaining recognition,” the council said in a statement.

Read: More firefighters suspended in Roscommon over training dispute>

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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