The Workplace Carcinogen Exposure Programme (WCEP) was established to reduce frontline staff exposure to carcinogens and other harmful substances in the workplace. This is a joint initiative involving the New Zealand Fire Service, NZPFU and the UFBA. WCEP has made several accomplishments the last few months. The WCEP project team is now starting a series of pilots to test new respiratory protective equipment (RPE), processes, and procedures prior to final approval, procurement, and implementation.
- An operational evaluation of various RPE was undertaken last March with the intention of supplying frontline staff with respiratory protection when BA is not appropriate. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the various potential RPE solutions to ensure it is fit for purpose. Each RPE item was subjected to a testing evaluation designed by the Operational Evaluation Group, which has been formed to test new equipment and procedures prior to introduction. The NZPFU, UFBA, PSA and EFOS are all represented in the group, along with operational fire fighters, fire investigators and the Fire Service National Operations team. The Operational Evaluation Group met again in May to discuss the results of the operational evaluation and formulate a recommendation. On 22 July the Fire Service Operational Leadership Team (OLT) approved the RPE recommendation paper, which was previously ratified by the WCEP Steering Committee. The recommendation paper will next go to the Fire Service Strategic Leadership Team (SLT).
- The development of the policy and procedures for RPE use and management of contaminated PPE and equipment were completed on 23 July at a policy review workshop with the Operational Evaluation Group. The new policy and procedures will be part of the pilots, prior to final approval and implementation.
- An advocacy group comprised of frontline staff has also been set up and will be instrumental in supporting the regions and areas in the use of the new equipment and procedures. The advocacy group met in late June/early July to discuss the operational rollout of the selected RPE and provide feedback on awareness campaign designs.
The next step - pilots
The first pilot started on 6 August at a station in Whanganui and will be followed by stations in Southland, Counties Manukau, and the West Coast to October.
The aim of the pilots is to validate and refine delivery and use of the following, before they are rolled-out to stations across the country in the months to come:
- New RPE for frontline personnel to use when BA is not appropriate.
- New and amended policies and procedures, including those tied to the new Fire Station Design Guidelines, designed to segregate clean and dirty processes.
- Training and awareness material.