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Firefighters threaten legal action over faulty breathing equipment

Firefighters in Dublin have expressed repeated concerns about oxygen sets which have failed on a number of occasions.

One of the sets in question, with ice visible on air tubing.
One of the sets in question, with ice visible on air tubing.
Image: IFESA

A GROUP REPRESENTING firefighters in Dublin is threatening legal action over what it says is Dublin Fire Brigade’s reluctance to deal with an ongoing issue over the safety of breathing apparatuses being used.

The Irish Firefighter and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) claims that there have been “at least 8 catastrophic episodes of equipment failures” reported by firefighters.

Though no injuries have occurred as a result of these incidences, IFESA has has asked that the sets be withdrawn immediately. Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) did not return repeated requests for comment.

In letters sent to Dublin City Manager John Tierney, every city councillor and senior members of Dublin Fire Brigade this year, IFESA – which claims to represent some 500 firefighters and paramedics working in the capital - has said the matter requires “immediate and urgent attention”.

It has repeatedly called for the breathing equipment to be withdrawn from service saying that air supply is cutting out, causing the collapsing of masks in firefighters faces potentially leading to suffocation.

TheJournal.ie has seen pictures of ice forming on sets during testing, caused by excess moisture in the oxygen cylinder, which could potentially cause problems with air flow.

“The staff have expressed their fear that the next malfunction may occur in an environment where the Fire Fighter is unable to extricate himself safely. The risk to our members is extremely serious,” a letter, dated 4 January, said.

Dublin Fire Brigade has so far not responded to the letters and does not recognise IFESA as an official union. It negotiates only with SIPTU and IMPACT. IFESA claims that it is entitled to negotiating rights under its affiliation with the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA).

DFB did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article but told RTÉ last month that the issues had been resolved. However, IFESA currently believes that a potentially fatal injury to a firefighter is “wholly foreseeable” unless further action is taken by DFB.

Last month, a spokesman from SIPTU told TheJournal.ie that there was “a crisis of confidence in the kit” referring to the breathing apparatuses. He said the matter needed to be resolved collectively to ensure all aspects of equipment was fully operation.

Firefighters call for withdrawal of ‘potentially dangerous’ breathing gear

Firefighters raise concerns after breathing equipment ‘collapses’

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Hugh O'Connell

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