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Key health and safety tips for fire and emergency workers

These health and safety tips provide general information on ways to manage the most common hazards and risks in your industry. By following this guidance you will be going a long way to effectively managing health and safety in your workplace. However, every workplace is different and you must not take this information as beingall that you need to do.

Biological hazards
Manual tasks
Driving and equipment/maintenance
Occupational stress/violence/bullying
Heat stress
Hazardous substances/environment
Working at heights/ladders
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Slips, trips and falls
Amenities and environment
Tips for workers

Activities/instructions More information
  • Make the work and workplace safe by:
    • finding what is unsafe or unhealthy in the workplace
    • deciding what is highest risk and needs to be fixed first and how to go about fixing it
    • taking action to fix the unsafe or unhealthy workplace problems
    • monitoring to ensure the problems are fixed and won┐t happen again
    • providing a site-specific health and safety induction
    • developing and training workers in fire and emergency safety procedures
    • providing a first aid kit and access to trained personnel
    • providing specific training to do the work safely
    • providing appropriate safety gear
    • ensuring workers wear the personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Remember, everyone is responsible for workplace health and safety.
Biological hazards
Activities/instructions More information
  • Develop work practices that minimise exposure to biological hazards (e.g. infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B and C).
  • Make sure blood and body fluid spills are cleaned up promptly.
  • Train workers in infection control and hygiene practices (e.g. wash hands regularly and after contact with blood, body substances and sharps).
  • Make sure lighting is adequate to be able to see discarded sharps.
  • Ensure workers do not put their hands into bins or other areas where sharps may be concealed.
  • Supply a portable sharps disposal kit and train those who might need to use it.
  • Have first aid procedures in place to deal with workers exposure to biological hazards.
Manual tasks
Activities/instructions More information
  • Ensure vehicles and equipment including assistive devices are well maintained, fit for purpose and safely used.
  • Ensure everyone has received clear instructions and has been trained to perform the job safely.
  • For tasks involving hard physical effort:
    • organise work to reduce physical effort needed to lift, carry, move, hold or restrain items
    • provide, use and maintain mechanical and assistive equipment/devices to minimise effort
    • train workers in safe use of equipment/devices
    • provide adequate storage and store heavy and frequently used items between mid thigh and shoulder height.
  • For tasks involving awkward working positions:
    • organise work areas (where possible) in order to minimise the need to twist, slouch, bend or work with the arms reaching away from the body
    • vary work duties or working positions (e.g. alternate between standing, sitting, kneeling or squatting for long periods)
    • adjust the vehicle seating to suit the worker in order to maintain a good posture with comfortable access to vehicle controls.
  • For tasks that are highly repetitive and/or of long duration:
    • provide regular breaks as required by the job demands
    • encourage workers to work at a steady pace for tasks
    • change work practices or purchase equipment that will minimise repetitive actions or the need to perform tasks for long periods
    • ensure adequate numbers of staff.
Activities/instructions More information
  • Ensure workers:
    • raise issues if their work schedule is too demanding and are working under duress
    • are aware of the causes and effects of fatigue (e.g. not getting enough sleep can impair their driving abilities and the ability to make quick rational decisions)
    • take extra breaks in extreme weather conditions
    • follow the fatigue management plan and stop and rest accordingly.
  • Where rostering is used:
    • make sure the roster provides for a continuous seven to eight hours sleep in each 24 hours, and at least 50 hours sleep for every seven days
    • limit number of consecutive night shifts to four
    • use forward shift rotation
    • manage hours of work and staff availability so that workers are not excessively fatigued.
Driving and equipment/maintenance
Activities/instructions More information
  • Ensure vehicles and equipment are tested, inspected and maintained regularly.
  • Ensure workers are trained in emergency response driving procedures.
  • Train workers in using correct radio procedures.
  • Ensure workers follow carefully the manufacturer┐s operating instructions when using pressurised equipment (e.g. high pressure hoses).
  • Ensure workers load and unload in safe conditions - use hazard warning devices to indicate a safe load or unloading area.
Activities/instructions More information
  • Use licensed electricians for electrical work.
  • Keep electrical equipment away from water.
  • Protect all electrical equipment by a residual current device.
  • Secure and protect extension leads from damage and ensure they are uncoiled when in use.
  • Ensure all equipment is maintained in good working order and all specified electrical equipment is tested and tagged where required.
  • Identify the location of overhead powerlines with ground markers.
  • Train workers how to apply exclusion zones when working near powerlines.
  • Look out for overhead powerlines to make sure equipment will not make contact with live wires.
Occupational stress/violence/bullying
Activities/instructions More information
  • Promote clear policies and procedures that address bullying, harassment and work pressure, and enforce an effective issue reporting and resolution plan.
  • Ensure all workers understand what bullying and harassment are and the procedure for reporting incidents (e.g. explain policies and procedures during induction).
  • Provide post-incident care, including counselling and support.
  • Monitor work demands and control fatigue.
  • Provide support systems for talking about tough situations at work.
  • Ensure role expectations and work structures are clear particularly through times of change.
  • Ensure workers have the appropriate skills to meet the demands of the job including how to manage traumatic events.
  • Ensure work procedures are applied consistently and in an unbiased manner.
  • Provide positive reinforcement, recognition and reward.
Heat stress
Activities/instructions More information
  • Make sure everyone knows the risk of heat stress and how to avoid it (e.g. take regular breaks and drink plenty of fluids).
  • Ensure workers maintain an appropriate level of physical fitness.
  • Screen workers for heat tolerance.
  • Provide first aid and medical help for workers affected by heat stress.

Hazardous substances/environment
Activities/instructions More information
  • Provide and make readily available to workers material safety data sheets (MSDS) for substances classified as hazardous.
  • Train workers in safe handling of hazardous substances, including recovery of hazardous and toxic material spills.
  • Store chemicals safely and securely when not in use and store flammable and combustible liquids away from ignition sources.
  • Label all hazardous substances (safety and risk phrases) and make sure workers read the label.
  • Do not store hazardous substances in food or drink containers.
  • Ensure workers are trained in dealing with exposure to toxic smoke hazards.
  • Train the workers in how to enter and exit a confined space safely.
Working at heights/ladders
Activities/instructions More information
  • Provide the appropriate climbing apparatus for the particular situation (e.g. fall-arrest system, safety harness).
  • Ensure all climbing equipment, including ladders, is appropriate for the situation and is regularly maintained.
  • Train the workers in how to use the climbing equipment safely.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Activities/instructions More information
  • Provide appropriate PPE for the task, ensure it fits the worker correctly and meets the proper standards.
  • Train workers in how to fit and maintain the correct PPE for the task (e.g. breathing apparatus).
  • Ensure workers wear the PPE (e.g. fire retardant clothing and appropriate footwear).
  • Store PPE in the correct place and in the right way.
Activities/instructions More information
  • Train workers in how to:
    • use hoses, foam sprayers and monitors properly
    • conduct fire safety inspections and inspect fire alarm boards
    • participate in organised drills for fire control and rescue work
    • protect property endangered by fires
    • administer first aid
    • assist in the evacuation of people in life-threatening situations using mobile high-performance vehicles
    • drive safely under extreme conditions (e.g. high speed in an emergency)
    • deal with medical emergencies such as burns, respiratory conditions and smoke inhalation.
Slips, trips and falls
Activities/instructions More information
  • Inspect sites where there are constant changes to workplace conditions.
  • Assess unfamiliar sites (e.g. road side) for hazards before starting tasks.
  • Ensure walkways (internal and external) and access points are well lit.
  • Ensure all floors including in the vehicles are kept clean and free from spills and trip hazards.
  • Implement appropriate cleaning methods.
  • Ensure workers wear non slip boots, the tread is kept clean and replaced when the tread is worn down.
Activities/instructions More information
  • Eliminate or replace noisy equipment.
  • Position noisy equipment away from other work areas.
  • Replace chemicals that can increase the risk of hearing loss.
  • Provide soundproof enclosures for operators and quiet rest areas.
  • Keep people out of noisy work areas if their job does not require them to be there.
  • Use job rotation to minimise workers noise exposure.
  • Supply, train in and enforce the use of personal hearing protectors when a worker is exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 dBA.
  • Signpost hearing protection areas.
  • Do a noise assessment to eliminate or minimise noise levels.
Amenities and environment
Activities/instructions More information
  • Provide workers with:
    • sheltered meal areas
    • access to toilets (1 toilet for every 15 workers or part thereof)
    • hand and face washing facilities, separate from toilets
    • access to potable, clean and cool drinking water
    • first aid equipment that is easily accessible, hygienic and appropriate for the size and complexity of the project
    • access to trained first aid personnel.
Tips for workers
Activities/instructions More information
  • Wear appropriate PPE.
  • Make sure you are trained to do your job safely including emergency response procedures.
  • Follow safe work procedures implemented by your employer.
  • Make sure you ask for and receive post-incident care such as counselling if you need it.

Last updated 12 March 2013