Bulletin No:          035                                     Volume:  20                        Monday 17 February 2014


Yallourn – Hazelwood fire

Members are informed that the UFU has been in constant contact with the MFB, CFA and the State Fire Services Commissioner regarding the ongoing activities at Yallourn- Hazelwood mine fire ground.

The UFU has also received a range of information and issues from members regarding potential problems and logistics that have arisen at the Yallourn Hazelwood fire ground.

The UFU has been working productively with the fire services and the State commissioner as we understand that the above incident/fire is of considerable complexity with the additional problem of challenging circumstances due to the protracted nature of this event.

In other words, as matters have arisen the UFU has been attempting to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of our members with the primary consideration of the safety and wellbeing of our members and the community.

The UFU is pleased to report that we believe the fire services and the State Fire Services Commissioner have also adopted a similar approach.

Further activities and issue resolution

The UFU has forwarded the following points as agenda items to be discussed with a view to resolution.  We want to emphasise that we have done so in a cooperative process where hopefully we can assist:

Appropriate procedures in context of the two hour turn around and whether this should be reviewed to one hour.    We have sought clarification of what is a tour of duty including meal and rest breaks.

We understand that mandatory wearing of BA is being directed and in this context the two hour turnaround does not make sense with current BA procedures.  We fail to see how the two hour conforms with BA procedures.

We have sought confirmation that personnel are being instructed to wear BA and this is occurring.

It is our understanding that when troops are withdrawn from the fire fight they are retreating to a rest/rehabilitation area that is also one of a hostile environment and are being exposed to unnecessary levels of heat and exposure to carbon monoxide.

The clean/dirty area principle/ discipline is not uniform and the difference in culture is causing unnecessary potential exposure to toxins both known and unknown.

We have asked for information on the monitoring equipment being utilised for detection of excessive carbon monoxide levels both on a global and on an individual basis. We have asked whether such equipment has been calibrated for accuracy.

We have also asked what other testing is being done for toxins in the atmosphere in addition to carbon monoxide monitoring.

We also understand testing has been concluded for mercury both in water, on the surface of the coal and the atmosphere and have requested the results of such testing.

Additionally we have sought confirmation of the arrangements for accommodation for personnel.  We understand that there are six bed dormitories of non standard adult size beds with such dormitories sharing one toilet, limited shower facilities and no air conditioning.

We have raised the issue of senior command working excessive shifts – up to 22 hours without sleep –  this is not only dangerous to the individual but we have also questioned the ability to provide a safe working environment for subordinates in the context of fatigue and decision making which could be critical to death or injury.

We are also concerned about health and safety of all in this environment.

If members have any issues at all please do not hesitate to contact the branch secretary irrespective of the time of day on 0419 127 004.

Additionally members are informed that the union is also in discussion with its health and safety coordinators where the outcome will be communicated to members in the near future.

In closing, the dangers of firefighting and our occupation are present on a daily basis but this event brings into stark reality the challenges and dangers that firefighters face on a daily basis.

The Yallourn-Hazelwood fire is of unique nature and globally it doesn’t appear that there is any learning from previous incidents that can assist as this type of mine is the only one in existence for this type of operation.

Strength in Unity


Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary