Firefighters' strike threat over failures with oxygen masks
Firefighters in Dundalk have warned they are prepared to take industrial action if their concerns over breathing apparatus (BA) are not addressed.
They have spoken out about their worries after two incidents where BA failed.
"When it happens the mask will cling to your face like an octopus and if it was to happen on an 'out' breath, you would have no air left in your lungs," one fire fighter said.
"When it happened to our colleague in November last, he had just walked through the door of a house that was on fire." Luckily, he was able to turn around and leave the house before safely removing his mask.
The sources who spoke to the Irish Independent are stationed in Dundalk, Co Louth. They said the first time there was any concern raised was last year when a crew was on a regular training day and they were crawling on the ground. At the time it was thought that human error could have caused the failure.
"When it happened again (last November) at the house fire, well the fear in the station…there was outrage from the crews."
Another source said: "We have no faith in our BA, we have lost confidence in it.
"Since we raised our concerns we have been told to fix the BA ourselves. Try doing that in the pitch dark when you are on your hands and knees in 250-degree heat and searching for a child."
The crews are prepared to take industrial action but the process of balloting and giving notice of that action will take time and they want the issue addressed immediately.
"We want management to take the lead here. Why should we have to push for industrial action when it is an easy thing to fix? We have been told nothing will happen before the report is completed by an independent consultant. We cannot afford to wait."
It is understood that an independent expert has visited Dundalk fire station and spoken to crews as well as examined the equipment. A meeting was held between senior management in the fire service in Louth and local Siptu representatives where the concerns were raised.