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).
The RFS or some Districts did at one time
supply water bottles and belts. This was discontinued due to the risk of water not being changed and becoming
stale or contaminated and that the water bottles did not hold sufficient to replenish water sweated during firefighting activities.
Pre-packaged water was introduced and at least in my District appears not to be used excessively. If anything I notice it exceeding it’s useby date rather than becoming a drain on finances because of overuse. L
It isn’t entirely clear what is being asked here, but if ‘staff’ in a particular area are restricting or witholding the supply of bottled water to brigades because they feel it is being used inappropriately, then that certainly needs to be addressed. Brigades should have an unfettered supply of it for operational use, and I can’t imagine that consumption in the shed while training etc adds up to much of a problem – although it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that members drink tap water where available to reduce waste and costs, or that brigades purchase their own refreshments for use outside of actual firefighting operations. However attempting to police this by limiting the supply of bottled water is unacceptable.
Thanks Nick, and the research from the Bushfire CRC that I put a link to in the original post said:
It is better to simply have a supply of water rather than ‘police’ it by rationing water.
Commonsense dictates that when at the station, and tap water is readily available, then that be drunk as opposed to reaching for bottled water. Perhaps not everyone can draw a distinction between the two.
In my experience, there are Brigades in which the members regard bottled water as a “freebie”, to be consumed at any time they are at the station, not merely when engaged in firefighting or similar activities.
As there are districts in which the budget is well below perceived needs, it is not surprising that the managers of these districts object to unnecessary expenditure on consumable items.
Note that such Brigades are very much in the minority.
The fact is, ‘it is a requirement of the WHS for the PCBU to supply drinking wherever to work location maybe’. So therefore, if brigade activities are away from the brigade station then the supply of water should prevail by whatever means. RFS SOPs state that during fire operations at least 2 litres of water should be consumed.
The RFS states that tankers be self sufficient in food for 24 hours in case of response. The rule or condition makes the PCBU responsible to have those vehicles equipped that way and the PCBU should supply all vehicles with meal packs to meet its rule. Brigades normally do their own but ultimately the RFS should supply these consumables.
I hear this often.
But I have never found “where it says so”
for general duty brigades (as distinct from RAFT crews, where it is indeed prescribed).
Can you (Bill) please cite your specific source for this?
I am part of the CFA and think we should be moving away from plastic water bottles. They are not good for the environment, costly and although handy, there must be other options available. Even if the trucks were fitted with some sort of water bladder that could be changed or re-charged. Years ago, brigades managed without the plastic bottles and although there might still be a role for them, I really think we could cut back on the amount of plastic used.