We are coming into spring, and many people are preparing their property for the summer fire season.
Clearing trees and vegetation from around houses is often part of this preparation, however people should be taking precautions to protect themselves.
A recent experience by a CFA volunteer who contracted the rare disease cryptococcal meningitis has highlighted the need for members, undertaking operations such as using chainsaws, to observe greater respiratory protection.
"We've updated our requirements to ensure the safety of all chainsaw operators, especially leading into fire season, but also throughout the whole year," Gary Weir, Operations Manager, Wildfire Planning & Forestry Industry Brigades, said.
Cryptococcus is a potentially fatal fungus that, when inhaled, may spread via the spinal cord to the brain.
This fungus has been found to be especially associated with Eucalyptus trees, most notably River Redgum, Bluegum and Blackwood timbers and soils, as well as some bird droppings.
The disease can display symptoms of fevers, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness – not dissimilar to influenza.
Although on average, it only affects six to ten people in Australia each year, those clearing properties using chainsaws are potentially putting themselves at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Operators undertaking chainsaw operations (either battery or two-stroke powered) should wear a P2 mask to protect from inhalable particles, along with compliant chainsaw chaps, chainsaw helmet with ear muffs and visor and goggles/safety glass.
Since September, 2018, a P2 mask has been a requirement when operating a chainsaw for all CFA people. From 1 July 2021, there will be updates to the requirements for all chainsaw operations.
"This is also a reminder for people to put in a report, for anything big or small, that has happened using machinery," Gary said. "That way, we're able to update our recommendations and requirements to keep people safe."
If you’re a CFA member and you’d like some more information on chainsaw operation, requirements and recommendations for Personal Protective Clothing, head to the Intranet: