President of the Fire Service Association (2nd Division) Keone Guy. –
President of the Fire Officers Association Keone Guy says nine officers have been injured in two weeks due to faulty equipment.
In the latest incident, two officers were injured while responding to a fire on Observatory Street, Port of Spain on Thursday morning.
Guy said both are in stable condition at hospital but he is concerned about the health of one of the officers who may have sustained internal injuries.
The officers were battling the blaze at around 1.30 am when the metal arm supporting the basket in which they were working collapsed and came into contact with itself.
The cage fell approximately thirty feet and swung back and forth. Luckily, the officers were not thrown from the basket. They were injured because of the malfunction and taken to hospital.
Guy told Newsday one officer fractured his leg while the other suffered chest injuries.
“We have one officer who requires emergency surgery to repair a fracture to his leg and another officer who we have some concerns about internal injuries to his chest area.”
Guy said a preliminary investigation has determined that the collapse stemmed from “some form of mechanical failure” but a full investigation still needs to be done.
He said the concern is growing as this was just one of several incidents in the past two weeks that resulted in fire officers being hospitalised.
“We’ve had more than nine officers who have had to be transported to hospital as a result of injuries while in the use of fire service equipment. Six of those officers were transported to hospital after an accident in the southern division and that was on account to some known defects in a vehicle.”
He said another officer was also hospitalised last week after she was injured when a defective ladder she was using collapsed on her hand.
Despite the lack of fully completed investigations into those incidents, Guy said he was confident the accidents were because of poor maintenance.
“The report from our officers is that it was faulty equipment, and I will stand on that as I have much confidence in their reporting and their ability to check the equipment.”
He said faulty equipment remains a concern for officers, and he intends to meet with all stakeholders involved in the procurement and maintenance of firefighting equipment.
“After we were elected, we sought to put as a priority the health and safety concerns of all our officers to ensure that the vehicles that they are transported in and equipment that they use on emergency scenes are well maintained and right fit for the job.
“This raises concerns as it pertains to the implementation of a proper hierarchy of controls to mitigate against risk within the fire service.”
Guy said he is also concerned about the psychological effect of the injuries and incidents on the affected officers, their families and other fire service members.
The Fire Service (TTFS), in a statement, said the safety and welfare of its officers is its first priority.
It said, “Arrangements have been put in place with professionals to address the officers’ traumatic experience, and the TTFS is liaising with the families of the affected officers at this time.”
Guy said the fire officers do not have access to any specialised health insurance coverage other than what they can receive from NIS.
“So when these officers are injured in these manners, outside of the NIS protections that are there, we are not afforded any additional form of compensation.”
Asked if the officers intended to pursue any legal recourse, Guy said, “All citizens of TT have access to the court for redress for any type of incident that they deem fit.”
Acting Chief Fire Officer Andy Hutchinson said Guy’s statements were not accurate.
“Nine officers injured within the last two weeks is inaccurate. However, I do not have the figure at hand for the last year,” Hutchinson said.
He said he would be able to provide the exact figure on Friday morning.
Referencing Thursday’s incident, Hutchinson said, “That Bronto skylift was recently sent for repairs along with two others to mobile services. They are the local agents. This event will be investigated and the process has already started.
“Maintenance is an issue and it is also a very old fleet.”