Today’s question is:
‘Is the RFS responsible to supply drinking water, whether bottled or tap to RFS workers on duty?’
I ask this question as district staff complain about the supply of bottle water to brigades. This bottled waster is used when out and about fire fighting but many workers will grab a bottle when tap water is readily available.
I believe that the WHS Act would require the provision of water as water to fire fighters prevents dehydration and related effects on the body.
I would think it is axiomatic that a fire service has to provide water to firefighters when engaged in fire fighting. The old Bushfire CRC did research on firefighter fatigue and safety (see http://www.bushfirecrc.com/projects/c-11-1/operational-readiness-rural-firefighters-during-bushfire-suppression), including issues of hydration – see http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/hydration_of_australian_rural_bushfire_fighters.pdf. An article in Fire Engineering (Mike McEvoy and David Rhodes, ‘Hydration and Firefighter Performance’ (4/13/2015) <<https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-168/issue-4/departments/fireems/hydration-and-firefighter-performance.html>>) reviews ‘the importance of hydration in firefighters…’ The authors concluded:
Hydration is critical to firefighter performance. Firefighters are often dehydrated, which may explain many fireground injuries; no two firefighters require the same fluid intake to maintain a euhydrated state… Every firefighter must assume personal responsibility for his hydration status. Departments need to provide the tools needed to maintain hydrated members.
I’m not an physiologist but I assume it is accepted that firefighters need to remain hydrated when fighting fires and if they don’t there is a risk to their health and safety. If that’s correct then the fire service has to manage that risk and the obvious way to do that has to be to ensure an adequate supply of drinking water or other appropriate fluid.
My correspondent says that ‘district staff complain about the supply of bottle water to brigades. This bottled waster is used when out and about fire fighting but many workers will grab a bottle when tap water is readily available’. Whether the water has to come in plastic disposable bottles is quite a separate question of whether it has to be provided. Providing fire fighters with tap water and reusable bottles to take onto the field may be an appropriate response, subject to any need to balance risks of one form of delivery over another (eg can the quality, or supply of, potable water via tap or tank be guaranteed during a fire etc).