United Firefighters Union Australia
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'Strength In Unity - Proud to be Union'
I had a terrific last month serving your union. I had the pleasure of attending a Gen 3 workshop, a Melbourne ARFF visit and a National Executive meeting. I don’t get the opportunity to attend to union duties as much as I would like but as you are aware most of us officials are still operational. We would not have it any other way.
The Gen 3 workshop was both enjoyable and educational. I am impressed by the dedication of our members that hold the “instructor” role. It can be a difficult and challenging role that hopefully is made easier by firefighters being engaged in the training.
The work done on heat stress management, decon and CBFT is excellent. I know that there are some that would say we are still behind other services but the staff at the school have started. I found the ice bath after CFBT quite refreshing. Brendan Parsey and our members that participated in the heat stress trials deserve a mention here. Their work has seen this procedure implemented. I also like the fact that we go through the shower and remove all PPE after training. It minimises the contact of carcinogens so can only be a good thing. Well done to all the members involved in the school.
The Melbourne ARFF visit highlighted the workload currently undertaken by FCC operators. Like my station here in Brisbane, Melbourne monitor Firemon for everyone else. This system has been problematic from the start and takes us away from our core role of monitoring the runway and taxiway systems. It was brought up that we need to “outsource” this and only deal with actual fire alarms. A third party could organise the testing and maintenance. I believe that there should be a detailed survey done on FCC’s across the country before a member inadvertently misses an important call. There are many options that could be developed in this space that would be more efficient.
The National Executive primarily met to develop a strategy around our recent Senate Report’s recommendations. We must keep the Senate and the public informed and the intention is to continue lobbying. Senate Estimates will start again in October so that will put management back in the “hot seat”. We are also formulating a national policy on PFAS and continue to gain legislative recognition of PTSD for first responders.
In closing I would like to thank members and officials for there time.
Strength in Unity,
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FROM THE BRANCH SECRETARY
So another eventful month for the UFUA. There has been a lot happening and we have been working hard to keep up the pace. There has been a termination of one our members which has been typically heavy handed, over the top and in the words of our general counsel disgusting behaviour by Airservices towards our member. As your union has always stated, actions speak so much louder than words and Airservices actions say it all about what they think about you their staff.
Civil Air shares our concerns about the behaviour of Airservices Management. They enquired about sexual harassment policies at the NCC before the last one and were met with an angry and quite aggressive response by the CEO basically telling them to get lost we don't need a sexual harassment policy. Well as any good union should Civil Air took the matter up to their members and the overwhelming response was Airservices has a massive problem with their treatment of staff. Everyone of you should read the North QC Report.
Airservices reaction to over 241 of their valued staff saying there is a real problem? Scream loudly that it is all false and alarmist. Oh and by the way they also take all allegations of bullying and harassment seriously. Supposedly???
Our ARFFS Senate Inquiry report is out with some substantial recommendations to Airservices and CASA to lift their game in regard to the provision of ARFFS. We all know that is unlikely to happen unless we drag them there kicking and screaming. Several TRA's have been conducted, the first three were done with a loaded scenario that did not require CABA interventions or rescue to be conducted. We pulled CASA in on the Canberra TRA and surprisingly they agreed with your union. Plausible worst case scenario is what ICAO and NFPA call for. Oh you may want to keep a very close eye on the new CABA procedures? In fact you may want to ask your LOM to explain the delays in implementation.
The TRA was just completed in Sydney and it now has a rescue component and an internal fire so all we can say is for all our members to make themselves experts in the TRA process and don't get led astray by people with agendas to save money by putting our members and passengers in harms way.
Have a good look at what the timings are by the ARFFSWG, the examples in ICAO and the examples in NFPA 403. There is no point making entry to a burning fuselage in 15 to 18 mins after arrival it will flashover if you are not in there and controlling it in just over 5 mins. Don't believe us? Check the FAA fire protection ratings for fuselages and what they are designed to withstand. Its time Airservices actually did some real ARFFS research and stopped flying by the seat of their pants.
So watch this space we are working on the Senate Report part of the strategic plan going forward. Your Union has reached out to our minister Mr McCormack who has totally ignored us. Great work by an elected representative of the people. Considering the great benefits an expanded ARFFS would have for regional Australia, its sad that a National Party leader is just not interested enough to even respond.
So your Union has written to Airservices about their plans to use Elizabeth Broderick to do a review on Airservices staff. Our concerns are the same as our concerns for the Employment Opinion Surveys. That is that the Terms of Reference will exclude the people who we, and all the other unions see as responsible for the toxic management culture that thrives in Airservices. Having sat through several hours in the last NCC while Airservices management tried polish the turd that was the last EOS, we can't see it being anything different with a cultural review. Spin it, bury it or blame it on the workers, is their modus operandi.
We don't expect them to include or consult with us about the Terms of Reference, why change their contempt for their staff seeing its working out so well for them. Your union will keep trying to engage and consult and get a TOR that looks hard at the underlying cause for the toxic workplace our members are forced to endure.
Our members also need to be aware that these reviews never paint fire services in a good light and your UFUA expects to cop it as well. But if we have done the wrong thing, we will take it on the chin, learn from it and try and fix it. Hopefully our female and diverse culture firies see us as their union, and see us as trying to help and would tell us if we were stuffing up and not supporting them or understanding their issues properly. Our offer has been clear to all members for a while now, we want you to help us and inform us, its the only way to grow and get better.
Our Federal Court Case has been on hold due to the excessive workload but don't despair its going ahead soon. We have a bunch of FWA cases to run shortly as well which should clear up some reinterpretation of the EA by some managers. One way or the other we will have a ruling and then we need you to ensure you always get what you are entitled to, don't just give in because they make it hard or threaten to harm you in another way.
The EGM has informed me they intend to have a crack at our members over the low loaders and they have no intention of fixing their chronic EVT shortage. So let us know as soon as it happens and we will lodge an injunction ASAP.
We have started monthly meetings with your workplace Delegates and the BCOM. If your Workplace Delegate has not yet attended give them a nudge and ask them what was discussed. We are trying hard to build an effective team in both the Industrial and WHS areas which are so important to our members. So take an interest help and support your local HSRs and Workplace Delegates or volunteer to take on a role. We really need some of our female and culturally diverse members to help us if that's you, call me anytime, we can make it happen.
Stay Safe Look After Each Other
Strength in Unity
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Your Legal Team
Here is a brief overview of what your legal team is currently working on. Most of you know by now that we have Mel (above) who is a practising Lawyer and Ali (below) who is a Barrister and a Dr of Law teaching at the Canberra Uni. What you might not know is they are also both active firefighters with the ACT Rural Firies. So if you have an issue and need help from your union just call us.
It has been a busy time for the new legal eagles on board at UFUA Aviation. We are grateful for the great support and encouragement we’ve received from the Executive and members. We really feel like our presence is making a difference, even if we are sometimes flying by the seat of our pants!
Over the short time we have been with UFUA, we’ve been working on a variety of matters, some of which have been quite complicated and complex and others not so. Our work, much of which is still a work in progress, has included;
- drafting a Federal Court Application relating to alleged breaches of Enterprise Agreement and recruit entitlements, and another Federal Court application
- responding to a number of alleged misconduct (code of conduct) matters
- assisting with Comcare issues- applications, reconsiderations and hearings
- making presumptive legislation applications in respect of work-related cancers
- working on amendments to the UFUA’s constitution (‘rule changes’)
- exploring FlFO, remote allowances, the Broome allowance and other entitlement issues
- assisting with Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) matters - reconsideration, conciliation and hearings
- challenging workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment
- making unfair dismissal applications to the Fair Work Commission
- assisting with Freedom of Information (FOI) applications
- working on PFAS and work health and safety matters
- ensuring record-keeping and superannuation compliance
- Researching and writing an employee workplace rights for UFUA Aviation members
It was sobering to read a recent report into the culture of Airservices which particularly looked at the issues impacting on air traffic controllers, but which clearly also impact our members. We are particularly interested in hearing from you about any issues around workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination.
The Federal Government’s proposed changes to the Registered Organisation’s law (the so-called ‘Integrity Bill’) are very concerning, particularly around the proposed increased capacity to disqualify unions and union officials. This is something we need to take seriously as would adversely impacts on things like fairness, access to justice to members, and human rights. If you don’t have a union to stand-up for you, to make sure you are properly paid and your private life if not improperly encroached upon, who will? This is very much a watch this space issue.
National WHS Coordinator
Work place health and safety, I think over the years it has been at times misrepresented, and certainly misunderstood, the effects of both being a common nonchalance toward areas of Safety that are at times a little harder to fight for. This is not anyone’s direct fault of course, more a consequence of a quality system imperfectly implanted and understood throughout various workplaces.
Last week I was very glad to be able to meet with both UFUA WHS Co-Ordinators, Carl Costin and Justin Carroll, together for the first time, and also Wes Garrett BCOM SA (Previous Nat Co-ord) to discuss identified national WHS issues, methods for communication and a bit of a structure review. We all strongly felt that if we can establish the right structure it will in turn follow that our effectiveness will increase, which in turn improves the opportunities to influence the quality of safety every Aviation Fire Fighter should be afforded and put their faith in.
We also were afforded a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the Fire Stations currently trialling a Diesel Exhaust capture at source system, invited and escorted by our brothers in unity from the UFU Vic Branch. This system has been embraced by MFB management with a clear understanding of the well-researched and documented correlation of Firehouse Chemical Exposure and Cancer in Fire Fighters. ARFFS has much room for improvement in this particular area.
I have received a large volume of feedback to my articles and emails over the last 7 months, I really want to thank all those who have taken the time to reach out and make contact. Unfortunately, there is a large majority of WHS issues around the country that our members are really concerned about, and do not feel they are being given a fair hearing by their local/regional management structures, and certainly there are constant reports of valid concerns going unchecked over long periods of time. It is always easiest to look into the past and find blame somewhere, however, I prefer to be proactive in the sense that “now is the time”!
What we do now, WILL impact on the future, either positively or negatively… To influence change, you must be in the ‘fight’ and I would really like to encourage all locally elected HSR’s to stay in the ring.
Speaking of HSR’s, recently I started conducting an audit of Airservices listed HSR’s, many thanks to all those who responded. It has really shone a glaring light on how outdated AsA’s record keeping is in this area and to have a much clearer picture now of who is where will be very useful going forward. A few locations are preparing to hold a fresh round of nominations and elections for Workgroup WHS Representatives, and I heartily applaud all those who feel the call to put their hand up.
This of course is only part of the solution, as it is also paramount that the workgroup for which the elected Rep/s represent to be engaged and motivated in observing and supporting their Elected HSR/s – The Rep is merely a motivated conduit of communication from the workgroup to the manager/s. It is a role that is often ‘grown’ into, and all encouragement I am sure will always be gratefully received.
It is easy to at times feel isolated geographically, 26 diverse locations with little to know communication crossover within the inner Structure of ARFFS, I’d like to encourage everyone to take a moment now and then and give thought to other stations and their unique qualities and circumstances.
As a Union, we are one, and as such are truly most effective pulling in the same direction – Communication, communication, communication. Don’t be shy, sing out if you have a suggestion, a question, a complaint or even some praise – There are so many areas of safety that can unify us together and together win lasting change that positively effects both our short-term and long-term Health and wellbeing.
The health and safety risks and hazards of firefighting on the men and women that make up the profession is increasingly well studied and documented. Meaningful and sound research has led to changes in individual fitness priorities, personal protective equipment, first responder personnel activities on the fire-ground, and a better understanding of the overall health risks increasingly associated with firefighting.
Cardiovascular & Chemical Exposure Risks in Modern Firefighting
Cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks from the combustion of common associated products involved in various firefighting activities, including: Aviation Fuels, aircraft materials, warehouse/household contents, is understood to be very real.
Toxic Exposures Associated with Fire Fighting
Several epidemiology studies have been conducted to determine the risk of cancer in the fire service. In the largest cohort mortality study ever conducted in firefighters (involving 30,000 career firefighters), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found statistically significant mortality and incidence rates of all cancers and cancers of the oesophagus, intestine, lung, kidney, and oral cavity, as well as mesothelioma for firefighters compared with the general population.
The NIOSH study also found excess risk of bladder and prostate cancers at younger ages. Recent studies conducted throughout the world (Nordic countries, Australia, and California) identified increased risks among firefighters for multiple types of cancer, many of which were also identified in the NIOSH study.
Comparing cancer rates to surrogates for exposure, NIOSH found an exposure-response relationship between fire hours and lung cancer mortality and incidence, and a similar relationship between fire runs and leukemia. These are important findings because if the risk of disease increases with increasing exposure, the likelihood of causality is enhanced. All together, these studies suggest that the firefighting occupation may put firefighters at an increased risk for multiple types of cancer.
There are a number of factors that can increase someone’s risk of cancer. These include smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, obesity, sun exposure, and exposure to chemical carcinogens. Several studies have been conducted to assess firefighters’ exposure to combustion by-products. These studies have identified numerous carcinogenic compounds in the fire atmosphere, including benzene, certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and other halogenated compounds. Firefighters can also be exposed to diesel exhaust, a known human carcinogen, at the fire ground or fire station.
When firefighters wear positive-pressure self- contained breathing apparatus (CABA), inhalation of these toxicants is essentially eliminated. Many of these compounds can also be absorbed through the skin either directly in vapor form (e.g., benzene) or through deposition or contact- transfer of particulate to the skin (e.g., PAHs). In a recent study, NIOSH measured firefighters’ dermal exposure to PAHs on the neck, face, arms, and scrotum following controlled burns where laundered or new gear was used.
NIOSH found a statistically significant increase in PAHs on the neck, which the investigators attributed to the lower dermal exposure protection afforded by flash hoods. In this same study, PAH metabolites in urine appeared to be elevated 3 hours after firefighting (most likely from dermal uptake) and exhaled breath levels of benzene were significantly elevated immediately after firefighting. The NIOSH investigators postulated that the increased breath levels of benzene were due to absorption of vapor through skin or inhalation of benzene off-gassing from contaminated gear. Other studies have found elevated biological levels of PAHs and benzene after firefighting activities despite the use of turnout gear and CABA.
In addition to the concern for dermal exposure, contaminated gear may increase firefighters’ exposure through the inhalation route. Two recent studies found elevated levels (compared to background) of several volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off- gassing from contaminated gear soon after doffing. This off-gassing of VOCs could expose firefighters if they rehab near contaminated gear, continued to wear their gear post-fire, or wear or store their gear in the apparatus cabin on the drive back to the station. Although not evaluated in either of these studies, contamination and off-gassing of semi-volatile compounds could result in even longer-term inhalation and dermal exposures.
Firefighting gear that becomes contaminated may be an important source for dermal exposure, whereby firefighters touch the contaminated gear and spread it to other areas of their bodies. Studies have quantified numerous contaminants on firefighting gear including PAHs, phthalates, flame retardants, and metals. Some types of flame retardants, dioxins, and furans are persistent organic pollutants, meaning they can remain unchanged in the environment for long periods of time and can bioaccumulate in the body.
These findings suggest that the act of firefighting and contamination of gear may contribute to the internal dose of these persistent organic pollutants. However, the magnitude and biological significance of this contribution to firefighters’ internal dose are only recently becoming better understood.
Understanding the tangible effects of this data will go a long way to help the firefighting profession better protect its most important resource - the firefighter.
Questions to be explored in future articles include:
- What is the effectiveness of decontaminating turnout gear in reducing dermal exposures (due to contaminant transfer) or inhalation exposures (due to off-gassing)?
- How effective are skin cleaning towelettes at removing fire ground contamination from the firefighters’ skin immediately after firefighting activities?
- How are these exposure risks modified by a firefighter’s specific role or position? For example, chemical exposures among firefighters or other personnel at the scene who do not enter the structure (e.g., pump operator, Incident Controller). Awareness of chemical exposure and determinant information (e.g., effect of wind direction) on these individuals is especially important because they often do not wear respiratory protection in these positions.
- What is the effect of different attack methods on firefighters’ airborne, dermal, or systemic exposures as well as turnout gear contamination and off- gassing? This is important information because it should provide direction for policy and procedures.
Coode Island was one Australia's largest chemical fires. ARFFS staff and vehicles attended and fought the fire over several days.
The following members and ARFFS Staff were identified:
ARFFS Vic/Tas Regional Office
DCO Bruce Pitcher (SE Regional HQ)
AFF G Goff (SE Regional HQ)
SO Cliffe Dunne (SE Regional HQ)
ARFFS Crew From Training College
Supt Garry McMillan (RFFSTC)
DO D Rees (AD)
DO Charles Barnard (LN)
DO Warren Husband (DN)
DO John Barlow (MK)
DO Tony Etteridge (RK)
SO Robert Dreimanis (CG)
SO Geoff May (AD)
SO Gordon Sinnett (CB)
SO Robert Forster (PH)
SO Nigell Burnell (MK)
SO John Goodman (HB)
AFF Peter Marshall (CN)
AFF Wes Kenny (BN)
AFF M Pollard (AV)
AFF Grant Delandgrafft (PH)
AFF G Conroy (AD)
AFF Laurie Roberts (CG)
AFF Graham Hockey (BN)
AFF P Cooley (HB)
AFF B Dunne (ML)
AFF Kerry Schemoineck (CB)
AFF David Lang (BN)
AFF Kevin Skinner (CG)
AFF Gavin Barr (RK)
AFF G Doreian (ML)
Airservices Tech Support Crew
ASO Peter Dirago (RFFSTC)
ASO B Camm
GSO B Hunter (RFFSTC)
EVT J Fisher
EVT S Mitton
EVT D Shell
EVT R Wojcki
ARFFS Crew from Tullamarine Airport
DO Leo Donovan (ML)
SO J Imer (ML)
SO Bob Clayton (ML)
SO G Edwards (ML)
SO WIilliam Grubb (ML)
AFF O Healy (ML)
AFF D Moore (ML)
AFF Lance Bartells (ML) deceased
AFF Russell Bourne (ML)
AFF P Miller (ML)
AFF G Medhurst (ML)
AFF K Balmer (ML)
AFF Stephen Goodman (ML)
AFF T Joronen (ML)
ARFFS Crew from Avalon Airport
DO Robert Stoward (AV)
SO Mick Shanahan (AV)
SO N McKenzie (AV)
SO V Ince (AV)
AFF A Woodyard (AV)
AFF P Johnson (AV)
AFF S Cotterill (AV)
AFF Jake Callaghan (AV)
AFF J Edmond (AV)
If any members are still in touch with these members or ARFFS staff members please get them to contact the UFUA so we can investigate how many have been ill probably from their exposures to the dangerous chemicals they encountered.
|For ever missed, never forgotten
Garry Mettam RIP
Respected friend and member 1986 until 2005. Honoured in memory by the United Fire Fighters Union (Aviation Branch) and its members. Unfortunately, we have lost another of our brothers to Cancer.
Garry became an ARFF fire fighter after serving his country proudly in the Royal Australian Navy from 1966 until 1986.
He spent his entire ARFF career in Darwin form the beginning at Recruit Course 32. He was the social glue that kept this station a very tight nit family. He was the first to welcome new staff and always ready to offer a hand in need. He was affectionately known as (Mother Mettam) for his sage advice and support for all staff and friends. He was an essential organiser for social events and the infamous annual canoe trips down the Katherine and Daly Rivers experienced by many local and visiting fire fighters with crocodiles’ encounters were included for free.
Crew Left to Right; Panda, Bali Bob, Gaz (Garry Mettam), John, Blaize, Brad and Herbie
Garry and his lovely wife Joan were very prominent in their volunteering and association with clubs around Darwin Including the Wanderers Football Club (50 years) and the TAI (The Aviation Club).
Garry was born 06th of September 1948 and passed the 31st July 2019 his spirit is carried forward by his Wife Joan, sons Jeff and Joe, and daughter Marion. The love for this man was shown by the enormous turn out of friends, family and colleagues from Darwin and abroad. I had the honour of being his friend and representing all fellow members who could not make it on behalf of the United Fire Fighters Union Aviation Branch.
Garry Mettam and grand daughter (images of Garry’s life at wake)
Many retired ARFF members were present to honour Garry’s life and pass their condolences to their family. A thanks to the new generation of ARFF that represented that had never met Garry, Dale and John.
A special thanks goes to LOM Andrew Hendy who provided an ARFF MK8 tender to be present for the ceremony. The Wanderers Football Club did themselves proud with a huge attendance of young and old.
The wake celebrated his life with tales of the past that brought smiles and laughter as well as self-reflection.
Garry (Mother) Mettam all who have been touched by you in life are better for it. The UFU wishes the best for Joan Mettam, her children and grandchildren, you are in our thoughts.
It was a privilege knowing you Gaz
J Hunter BCOM
If you have any ARFFS photos share them with us. We need to start a collection now before they are all lost.
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Your UFUA Aviation Branch
Branch Committee of Management
Hayden West BCOM ACT
Zac van Loenhout BCOM NT
Wes Garrett BCOM SA
Justin Hunter BCOM SQ
John Ring BCOM NQ
Rory Thomas McCabe BCOM Vic
Simon Owen BCOM Tas
Chris Jones BCOM WA
James Young BCOM NSW
Sam Vincent (Sydney)
Dennis Nixon (Port Hedland)
Ash Peeler (Avalon)
Ken Balmer (Ayers Rock)
David Tromba (Mackay)
Warren Chappell (Broome)
Chris Day (Brisbane)
Nick Feeney (Gladstone)
Steve Crockford (Coffs Harbour)
Trevor Rogers (Coolangatta)
Chris Stephens (Ballina)
Dan Thompson (Adelaide)
Michael McDonald (Canberra)
Mick Hankin (Hamilton Island)
Nigel Cristaldi (Cairns)
Matt Starkey (Newman)
Paul OConnor (Perth)
Rick Nolan (Darwin)
Glen Laurie (Melbourne)
Mick Greenway (Townsville)
Kris Tilley (Karratha)
Simon Dowling (Alice Springs)
Matt West (Launceston)
Matt Crighton (Rockhampton)
Pat Shanahan (Maroochydore)
Branch Secretary: Mark von Nida
Branch President: Rob Skelton
Senior Vice President: Simon Owen
Junior Vice President: Rory Thomas McCabe
Dr Alison Ballard
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