Expert warnings on dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were withheld from firefighters battling the Hazelwood mine blaze, and many became ill or were hospitalised. Firefighters battling the Hazelwood mine blaze were exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, a union claims.
The United Firefighters Union allege a secret consultant’s report warned the MFB and CFA of possible poisoning and said all firefighters who worked in the mine should have been wearing specialist breathing apparatus.
The report also allegedly questioned the methods being used to monitor carbon monoxide exposure. Peter Marshall, the union’s Victorian secretary, said despite the warnings, crews were made to work in the mine.
“The CFA and MFB’s consultants say firefighters were unnecessarily and knowingly exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide that could have been, and knowingly are, detrimental to their health,” Mr Marshall said.
The report dates back to February 13, just four days after a deliberately lit fire spotted into the mine. Mr Marshall is calling for WorkSafe to investigate the incident. Several firefighters were treated in hospital for exposure to carbon monoxide.
“The firefighters were not given the option of making a decision based on the knowledge of this consultant,” Mr Marshall said.
“They were just deployed like robots, like canaries into that situation that the MFB and CFA’s own consultants said was unsafe.
“Somebody needs to be accountable for that.” Victoria’s Fire Services Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said the incident controller did order fire crews to wear breathing apparatus when high levels of carbon monoxide were detected.
Mr Lapsley did acknowledge problems monitoring carbon monoxide levels in firefighters in the first week of the Hazelwood fire but said an independent inquiry, being overseen by former Supreme Court justice Bernard Teague, would examine the allegations.