ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS

There is always a risk of injury to firefighters during fire suppression efforts.

Over the course of the Hazelwood mine fire, a number of firefighters received first aid treatment. Mr Lapsley told the Board that 15 fire services firefighters presented to hospital, however none were admitted. Fourteen of these 15 firefighters presented to hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.5 Mr Steven Harkins, GDF Suez Director of People, Culture and Environment, told the Board that 12 mine staff were sent to hospital due to initial high carbon monoxide readings but none were admitted.6 A number of firefighters from fire services and the mine experienced low level carbon monoxide exposure, however did not require hospital treatment.7

The number of individuals who experienced symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning, but did not attend hospital, is unknown.

A number of other health impacts due to the mine fire were reported. A firefighter was admitted to hospital after a small cut sustained during his firefighting efforts at the mine became infected. He underwent multiple surgeries but has recovered.8 On 9 February 2014, a firefighter was injured activating a spray in the northern batters which resulted in several broken teeth.9

A firefighter narrowly avoided injury after coal dislodged and fell around him while firefighting in the mine.10

The firefighting conditions also caused a number of firefighters to suffer extreme tiredness and exhaustion, especially in the first few days of the fire when they were required to work long shifts.11