COVID-19 Update

Covid-19 restrictions can result in unexpected or new issues arising.  Members can always seek union support and representation if there are personal circumstances that require assistance.

Members with Covid-19 issues (other than personal circumstances) are to be raised through your Local or National representatives.  Those issues are discussed at Region Covid-19 groups and if necessary discussed at SDCC.  Employers remain bound by individual contracts and collective agreements during Government Covid-19 restrictions and therefore any change that affects terms and conditions of employment must be agreed.  We have a high-trust model operating providing the correct process is followed.  Those changes are formally recorded and reverted back post the Covid-19 restrictions.

The NZPFU has representatives at every level of that process and the NZPFU SMEs are involved where appropriate.  These members work long hours to ensure the protocols are appropriate and practical and minimise impact on members’ terms and conditions of employment.  We appreciate their energy and commitment which has been fundamental in keeping members’ safe during Covid-19 outbreaks over the past 18 months.

Recently there has been a request for face shields to be used instead of goggles for medical response as some have experienced the goggles fogging up when undertaking resuscitation.  The union’s position is any PPE must meet the appropriate standard and be fit for purpose.  The NZPFU medical response SME has provided the following:

  • PPE face shields provide a level of protection from fluid splashes to the facial area (chemical, blood, bodily fluids). They’re not designed to provide protection from aerosols (particles in the air) which can enter underneath or around the sides of a face shield. While safety glasses can also be worn  underneath a face shield to increase eye protection, these also only provide direct splash protection, they do not provide full protection to the eyes from aerosols.
  • Some activities during resuscitation can create a COVID aerosol risk (bag masking, OP airway insertion, chest compressions, administering oxygen, ambulance airway procedures).  Firefighters need protection from aerosol risks, especially when ambulance arrive and start to carry out such procedures.
  • The eyes have a mucous membrane covering, which can be a pathway for viruses like COVID, so the most effective eye protection must always be worn. The most effective encapsulating eye protection in a resuscitation environment are goggles.
  • Goggles come in 3 types, non-vented, direct vented and indirect vented, while some also have the antifogging “N” rating . A vented goggle over a non-vented goggle is better at reducing fogging issues.  The indirect vented type goggle also significantly reduces the risk of an aerosol entering inside the goggle, due to its purpose built vent design/system.
  • There is currently a mixture of these goggle types across FENZ appliances, this may include non-vented which are more susceptible to fogging.  FENZ is currently ensuring all goggles supplied for medical response (via the MOH), are indirect ventilated, meet the required standard and have a “N” rating to reduce fogging.  The NZPFU have asked for a review of the MOH issued goggles to ensure they’re also fit for purpose or if an alternative goggle of the same standard is more suitable.

We understand the frustration with restrictions, additional PPE and cleaning regimes especially where there are no reported Covid-19 cases in the area.  The PPE, SDPPPs including the hygiene and cleaning regimes are your protection and must be maintained.

Please be considerate of our members in the Auckland area continuing to live under Level 4 restrictions and responding within a known outbreak, and our members in Communications Centres are being required to work under tough conditions including continuous mask-wearing.  They may be weary of the restrictions and again facing the burden of the outbreak.

The Covid-19 outbreak and restrictions affect people in different ways.  No one needs to struggle alone.  Please do not hesitate to ask for support from your union representatives.  We may not know who is struggling so please reach out to those that might appreciate a chat or other support.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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