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WE TAKE FIREFIGHTER SAFETY SERIOUSLY AT SVFD
The SVFD Safety Committee provides a venue for employees who have concerns regarding safety. The committee’s labor/management make-up provides for an excellent collaborative work environment, allowing for unbiased examination and resolution to given issues.
Over the past three years (2016-2018) the SVFD Safety committee has processed 65 separate issues brought before them. When an issue is time critical and relevant to the entire department a “Safety Bulletin” is issued. Five Safety bulletins have been issued in the past three years.
In 2018 we reviewed the entire NFPA 1500 safety standard against our current practices. This was used as a gap analysis to see what of changes we might choose to make and establish a timeline to execute those changes.
As an accredited agency, the SVFD is annually evaluated according to 252 Performance Indicators. Sixty of these Performance Indicators directly relate to firefighter safety. In July 2019, SVFD passed all of these Performance Indicators and continues to be the only “Accredited” Fire Department in the Inland Northwest.
Safety is a continuum not a choice between safe and not safe.
Complete safety is not typically attainable and if so it comes at a tradeoff that the participant is unwilling to pay. For instance, we decrease our safety by responding code through heavy traffic in a 25 ton apparatus but we accept the decrease in safety in trade for getting to mitigate an emergency sooner.
We term the philosophy behind this as pay. For instance:
These are examples of firefighter safety improvements that have been brought forward:
- Particulate Blocking Hood – In 2018 the Safety Committee evaluated the effectiveness of existing protective gear in regards to particulate blocking. After determining our hoods were not as effective as they might be, a subcommittee involving members of Locals 876 and 3701 was created to test and select a replacement. In 2019 the new hoods were issued to firefighters. These hoods provide a significant improvement in blocking cancer-causing particulates while providing for adequate body heat dissemination.
- The Binder Lift Device After evaluating firefighter injuries the Safety Committee asked for assistance from personnel to develop methods to reduce lifting injuries. Captain Barrett, after evaluating Boise, ID. Fire Dept. methods, suggested purchasing specialized equipment and subsequently training crews to effectively use it. The Binder Lift device was adopted and issued to crews and has resulted in fewer lifting injuries.
- Non-Slip Apparatus Bay Floor Mats – In Jan. 2019 a crew from Station 8 pointed out that we had a recurring problem with the existing non-slip apparatus bay floor mats. These mats were getting increasingly slick as they aged. Additionally, there were instances of mold build-up on the underside of the mats. Under the direction of Chief O’Brien, the replacement mats were evaluated. This resulted in the purchase of a much thinner mat which does not slide and is resistant to mold build-up.
- Real Life Movements – In the 2019 the focus of the Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) group was to improve utilization of fire department supplied equipment by improving employee form. This helps to reduce injuries, both on the job as well as during workouts. Rather than solely buying new equipment types we have tried to better utilize what we already have acquired. Adjustable weight sand bags were added to mimic real life firefighter loads. These are the type of eccentric and shifting loads our employees face daily.
Many other issues were covered by the Safety Committee that firefighters have concern over such as cancer awareness, occupational annual physicals, training, and more.
For more information visit the spokanevalleyfire.com website.
Spokane Valley Fire Department serves the City of Spokane Valley, City of Liberty Lake, City of Millwood and the surrounding unincorporated areas of Spokane County with a combined population of 125,000 across 75 square miles. SVFD firefighters and paramedics responded to more than 17,280 emergency calls in 2017. Established in 1940, SVFD is an Accredited Agency by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, one of only a handful in Washington State.
For more information about Spokane Valley Fire Department, visit www.spokanevalleyfire.com.
- Julie Happy