SitRep 41/2022

July 8, 2022

World Health Organisation declares Firefighting a ‘cancer-causing’ Profession 

 The WHO’s International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) has last week officially declared that our work as Firefighters is carcinogenic to humans, a move that leaves no room for complacency for Fire Agencies and Governments across Australia. 

The determination, part of the IARC’s ‘Monograph on the identification of carcinogenic hazards to humans’, identified a complex cocktail of toxins contributing to Occupational Cancer, including diesel particulate matter, PFAS, increased toxicity from building materials and furnishings in structural fires, and car fires among other environmental factors. The IARC’s escalation takes the profession of Firefighting from Group 2B to Group 1A, meaning our work is no longer regarded as ‘possibly’ carcinogenic. Beyond any doubt Firefighting causes cancer. For context, existing Group 1A classifications include among other things formaldehyde and arsenic. 

Decision makers must now do more to protect Firefighters in their line of work, particularly to prevent exposure to potential carcinogens. There is no further room for doubt or debate on these matters. 

Despite some well-intended advancements to equipment, decontamination procedures, and uniforms over the years, we still have a long way to go, particularly in NSW. Presumptive Legislation has been a huge achievement, but it is not enough on its own. The sobering reality is that Occupational Cancer is not on the decrease and remains the greatest killer of Firefighters globally.

While interstate services are ahead of the game in many ways, we remain in constant dispute with FRNSW concerning the very basics of Work Health & Safety matters. Some Stations even report they don’t even have hot water to decontaminate properly, and many remain without diesel capture systems in engine bays. 

Just today FRNSW have informed the FBEU that they are refusing to provide business cases concerning capital expenditure requests for the latest budget round. As we have recently discussed, FRNSW’s budget sits in stark contrast to other agencies. If the goal of the Plus Plan is for FRNSW to be left behind at the expense of Firefighters, we say mission accomplished. 

It is going to take strong leadership for safer conditions and that needs to come from our rank and file. 

We have this week written to FRNSW ELT, urgently calling upon the organisation to work with the FBEU to protect the health of Firefighters. We are yet to receive a response but will endeavour to update members in due course. 

You can read more about the decision here. 

Reminder – FBEU Delegates Conference 

 Registrations for the FBEU Delegates Conference continue to come-in this week. HSR’s and Delegates are encouraged to register as soon as possible here.

Final numbers are required by the start of August. The Union Office will be in touch with all participants to confirm arrangements in due course. 

Delegates meetings for July

 Sub-Branch Delegate meetings are currently being confirmed with State Committee. Delegates can expect to be notified through their usual channels of a date and time. 

On the agenda will be updates on the state of Bargaining, Industrial Bans Committee, WHS matters, and broader FBEU campaign and strategy.

As always, if you don’t have a delegate, reach out to the Union Office to make arrangements. 

We look forward to seeing you there. 

 In Unity


Leighton Drury
State Secretary