FIREFIGHTERS are to fit face masks and deliver vital PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care staff.
Fire and Rescue personnel have volunteered to fit face masks for frontline NHS and clinical care staff and deliver medical supplies to hospitals and care facilities during the coronavirus outbreak.
This was after an agreement was made by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) with fire chiefs and national employers.
Under the agreement, specially-trained and experienced fire and rescue personnel will fit protective masks to frontline NHS and clinical care staff working with patients infected with Covid-19.
Firefighters will now also be able to begin delivering much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to overstretched NHS hospitals and care facilities.
These two new areas of work agreed extend the previous agreement reached at the end of March, which allows firefighters to be able to begin driving ambulances, delivering medicine and food to vulnerable people, and assist in the movement of bodies.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently gave a strong warning that the incorrect fitting of a protective face mask can increase the risk of Covid-19 infection and ‘lead to immediate or long-term ill-health or can even put the RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) wearer’s life in danger’.
Firefighters have been wearing respiratory masks for decades and the specialist trainers are certified to undertake the face-fit testing.
During a face-fit testing, the ‘tester’ must ensure that the RPE is clean and functioning and that the seal with the wearer’s face is tight and can prevent hazardous substances getting into an individual’s airways.
Under the new areas of work, the agreement states that the face mask fitting practitioner and the candidate must not come into skin-to-skin contact or be in close proximity to the exhaled breath of the other without suitable protection.
Under the agreement, firefighters could also be expected to assist in the delivery of PPE to the social care sector which has reported critical shortages of essential equipment. For those delivering PPE and medical supplies, delivery locations must be established that limit the risk of cross-infection.
The update to the agreements will now see firefighters able to carry out:
- Face Fitting for masks to be used by frontline NHS and clinical care staff working with COVID-19 patients
- Delivery of PPE and other medical supplies to NHS and care facilities
- Delivery of essential items like food and medicines to vulnerable people
- Drive ambulances and assist ambulance staff
- Move dead bodies, should the outbreak cause mass casualties
The agreement states that core responsibilities must be maintained throughout the crisis.
Any activities taking place at a local level must be risk-assessed with fire and rescue personnel being given any necessary additional training and the appropriate PPE.
The additional work taken on by firefighters will be temporary to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially in place for two months, the agreement can be extended or shortened if agreed between all parties.