Saturday 25 October 2014

Firefighters' breathing gear unsafe and faulty, court told

Tim Healy

Published 22/01/2014 | 02:30

Firefighters are concerned about their breathing equipment. Picture posed
Firefighters are concerned about their breathing equipment. Picture posed

DUBLIN city's firefighters claim essential breathing equipment used in emergency situations is faulty and unsafe.

The Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association (IFESA), which represents firefighters, is extremely concerned about "regular failures" of the Scott ACSfx breathing apparatus, it was claimed in the High Court.

The equipment is supplied by the firefighters' employer, Dublin City Council, and is required so they can breathe freely in smoke-filled environments.

The IFESA says matters were brought to a head earlier this month when the breathing equipment used by two firefighters failed while they were tackling a blaze in Dolphin's Barn.

Despite making complaints, nothing has been done by the council to alleviate their concerns, it is claimed.

They want the equipment removed from service until its safety can be assured and an investigation is conducted into why a number of the breathing sets have failed.

The IFESA, and members John Kidd, Ross MacCobb and Geoff Tracey, have launched court proceedings against the council.

INJUNCTION

They are seeking injunctions restraining the use of the breathing apparatuses until the equipment has been tested and independently deemed safe.

They also seek injunctions requiring the council to withdraw all its current stock of the equipment until it is deemed safe to use

The application came before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who yesterday granted permission to the IFESA to serve short notice of injunction proceedings on the defendants. Permission was granted on a one-side-only represented basis.

The matter comes back before the court tomorrow.

In an affidavit, firefighter Geoff Tracey said that in the early hours of January 5 last, while tackling a fire at Thomas Court, Dolphins Barn, he experienced "a complete failure of air supply causing the face mask on his equipment to collapse".

At the same time, one of his colleagues, who was also using the Scott ACSfx, had a similar problem.

Both were required to leave the burning building in a hurry. Mr Tracey said both he and his colleague were "extremely distressed" at what had happened and were fortunate that they were able to escape.

He said he was "extremely worried about the the breathing equipment".

John Kidd, who is national chairperson of the IFESA, said 300 of the Scott ACSfx sets came into service in 2011. During its first few weeks of service, reports were received that several sets had failed. By early 2012, 60 sets were taken out of service.

He also told said several other sets have failed since.

Since the incident in Dolphins Barn, the IFESA is "no longer prepared to tolerate" the use of the equipment which Mr Kidd said is "manifestly unsuitable and liable to fail at such an alarming rate".

Irish Independent

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