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Operational Review into Racetech fire released

29 May 2014

Operational Review into Racetech fire released

The New Zealand Fire Service has released its Operational Review and Accident Investigation Report into the fire at Racetech’s Seaview factory in August last year, in which Senior Firefighter (SF) Troy Mahupuku received serious burns.

SF Mahupuku is making a good recovery and has returned to operational duties.

In releasing the report, Deputy National Commander Paul McGill said, “The New Zealand Fire Service is a learning organisation. We review our performance and processes regularly with a view to determining what is working well and identifying any areas where we could improve performance and manage risk.”

“Following every major incident we conduct robust internal reviews, fully involving the people concerned and their representatives. We then develop and implement comprehensive corrective action plans when areas for improvement are identified.”

The NZFS Operational Review into the fire at Racetech found some aspects of the breathing apparatus (BA) safety and entry control procedures were not applied by the fire crews engaged in tackling the fire. This meant that when SF Mahupuku got separated from his team he was not rescued as quickly as he might have been.

The five BA wearers who initially went into the building did not hand in their BA tallies, as required under the BA procedures, and BA Entry Control was not set up until after this time.

The officer with the team inside the building noticed the fire was rapidly changing and getting worse and ordered the crew to exit immediately. In the course of exiting, SF Mahupuku got separated from the others and became disoriented. Meanwhile, the other four crew members exited without identifying that SF Mahupuku was missing and continued to fight the developing fire. Fortunately he managed to find his way to near the exit door where he was rescued by his colleagues, but by this time he had received serious burn injuries.

“Everyone must take responsibility for the procedural lapses – the leaders of the organisation, all levels of management and the frontline officers and firefighters concerned. We consider that, ultimately, it is the organisation’s responsibility to monitor standards and to ensure the right safety behaviours are adhered to, so the Fire Service is taking responsibility for addressing this.”

"The safety of our personnel is paramount for the Fire Service,” Paul McGill said. "While fire fighters respond to challenging and unpredictable incidents that present many potential risks to their safety, these risks can be managed. We have comprehensive policies and procedures designed to support safe practices, backed up with thorough and ongoing training programmes. We also use world-class personal protective equipment. However, we clearly need to do more to ensure the safety of our people. Therefore, we are underway implementing a comprehensive corrective action plan (CAP).”

This CAP, which has also been released in full, consists of many actions, but in summary it involves:
• A major education programme to emphasize the vital importance of implementing safety procedures, and taking the time to make considered and safe decisions.
• Revising our training programmes so that safety procedures and safe behaviours are practiced more, and understood better.
• Enhancing our incident management training programmes, with an increased focus on risk assessment and safety.
• Reviewing our BA procedures and potentially strengthening them.
• Targeted additional monitoring and auditing to verify that safety practices are properly embedded.
• Sharing what we have learnt from the Racetech incident through a case study training programme, which all our people will be required to undertake.

WorkSafe New Zealand also investigated the Racetech incident.

Operational Reviews of two fires in Auckland – Extreme Entertainment in June 2012 and LaHood Furnishings in September 2012 – which also raised issues in relation to applying BA safety procedures, have also been released. Many of the corrective actions for Racetech will also serve to address the findings of these incidents.

“In early October last year, I issued a National Notice to all NZFS staff entitled Vital Operational Information, which reiterated the importance of always following well-established safety procedures when fire fighting and wearing breathing apparatus inside structures. The safety of our staff depends on that.”

“We are working in partnership with the NZ Professional Firefighters Union, on behalf of career firefighters, and the United Fire Brigades Association, representing our volunteers, to raise awareness of the critical focus on safety and well-being in everything we do. Effective risk management is critical given the inherently high risk nature of much of the work of the Fire Service and the dynamic environments we work in.”

Paul McGill stressed “New Zealanders can have full confidence in their Fire Service. Firefighters are skilled and committed and do everything possible to protect life and property from the consequences of fire or other emergencies, he said. The effectiveness of fire fighting operations and the safety of the public is not in question here; it’s the safety of the firefighters themselves.

ENDS

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