Friday 23 March 2018

Dublin firefighters claim breathing apparatus is faulty, High Court hears

Aodhan O'Faolain

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 ACS FX BA 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 breath freely in smoke-filled environments.

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

They are seeking injunctions restraining the use of the breathing apparatus in the course of their duties 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 breathing apparatus in question 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 his injunction proceedings on the defendants. Permission was granted on a one side only represented basis.

The matter comes back before the court on Thursday.

In an affidavit, firefighter Geoff Tracey said 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 ACS FX, had a similar problem.

Both were required to exit 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 from the building in time.

He said he is "extremely worried about the the breathing equipment"

which is the only means in which he can breath while fighting a fire in such circumstances.

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

He also told said several other sets have failed since. The Health and Safety Authority were informed, he added.

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."

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