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CFA to implement all report recommendations
CFA today publicly released the Professor Joy Report (into historical use of chemicals for live fire fighting training at Fiskville between 1971 and 1999) and the organisation’s detailed response.
CFA has committed to implementing all 10 recommendations, accepted all conclusions and announced 11 additional related initiatives including a health impact study.
CEO Mick Bourke said reading the report would make some members feel concerned or even anxious, but it is an important document that will, as much as possible, provide the facts about what took place.
“The report examines an era where attitudes, understanding and work practices were different,” he said.
“That said, what took place at Fiskville, and to a lesser extent at our other regional training grounds, was not good enough and we regret what happened. The report finds that events and practices that took place then, would not be acceptable today.
“While we cannot change what happened in the past, we can clearly demonstrate that we can learn from past mistakes and are committed to making changes to assure the ongoing health and safety of our people along with our care for the environment.”
Mr Bourke said the report highlights that CFA had a ‘late awakening’ regarding adopting important health and safety practices.
“Personally, I found the fact the CFA was slow to take the opportunity for improvements disappointing,” he said.
“While our health and safety practices have now changed for the better - especially since 2000 when we introduced minimum skills and improved equipment - a lack of rigorous systems and processes still needs addressing in CFA today and I want this report to be a catalyst for this to take place.”
The six month, $4 million independent investigation directly employed 23 staff and 22 paralegals (not counting staff at support businesses) and saw 324 people interviewed and a search of four million documents at 20 locations (8,000 were identified as relevant).
“The Professor Joy Report was a crucial first step in determining if past practices had links to ill health in members. It gives us a much better understanding of chemicals used at Fiskville, how they were used and stored and which groups of people had the highest risk of exposure to them,” Mr Bourke said.
“The next step will be determining the requirements for a health impact study, which examines those past practices and any potential health links. Discussions about this independent study have begun.”
Importantly, for the vast majority of people who have trained, visited or lived at Fiskville, the report will provide comfort that their exposure levels likely posed ‘low’ to ‘negligible’ risk. For Practical Area for Drills (PAD) workers and full-time Instructors who were exposed to a ‘high’ risk of exposure (compared to others at Fiskville) or volunteer or regional staff instructors who had ‘medium’ risk of exposure and have any concerns, CFA has announced additional member wellbeing and support services.
While the report identifies the need for further water and soil testing (and possibly remediation work) at Fiskville and the other CFA training sites, it does not find that workers and visitors face an unacceptable risk and there is no requirement to close any site.
“There will be adjustments needed while any testing and possibly remediation work occurs, but this is manageable and our people and other agencies will still be able to train at CFA sites,” Mr Bourke said.
“As soon as media made CFA aware of health concerns arising from past practices at Fiskville, independent hygienists were commissioned to check the current health and safety at all CFA training sites and provide current day staff and visitors comfort. Importantly, hygienists cleared all CFA sites of posing an unacceptable health risk.”
Mr Bourke said that during the past six months, CFA employed environmental consultants, Hazcon, to assess the current health and safety standards of the seven training grounds.
“The reports provided 34 recommendations and 33 have already been completed. The remaining one, regarding updating a statewide field training manual, will be completed in coming months. We have taken action and made improvements ahead of the release of the Professor Joy Report into past practices, to provide extra confidence to anyone using the sites,” he said.
Mr Bourke said CFA’s main priority over the past six months has been its responsibility for the welfare of its people, past and present, and their families.
“I would also like to again thank Professor Joy and his team for their hard work to deliver this report – it has been a busy six months for them and was an outstanding effort,” he said.
The 11 CFA led initiatives are:
- Commission a health impact study to examine linkages between exposure to hazardous materials at Fiskville and health effects taking account of different levels of exposure;
- Provide a health monitoring program for identified high and medium exposure groups;
- Provide information packs for CFA members and their families outlining support services;
- Make information packs available for the public that provides information on community based services;
- Establish a Board Committee for Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHS&E) that will have independent membership with relevant expertise;
- Implement AS4801 (in relation to occupational health and safety) and AS14001 (in relation to environmental care) processes at CFA training facilities;
- Include a standing item on Board agenda’s relating to progress reports on implementation of the report.
- Arrange an external independent audit of CFA actions to implement the Professor Joy Report and make the results publicly available;
- Acquire specialist personnel around environment management to support personnel already working on health and safety and increase the presence of OHS&E across the state;
- Allocate executive responsibility, management and control for all training grounds with the Executive Director Operational Training and Volunteerism;
- Provide project management capability for the implementation of all recommendations.