Recent testing by the Mine Safety Technology Centre of NSW has produced evidence this device does not meet Australian Standard ‘AS/NZS 1716 Respiratory protection devices’ requirements creating a potential life-threatening risk from use in an emergency. This has been supported by Safe Work Australia and NSW Environment Protection Authority, confirming it does not meet requirements under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code).
The emergency escape breathing device (EEBD) is designed to supply oxygen for a short period to allow endangered workers to escape situations where smoke, chemicals or gas have severely compromised air quality and life is endangered. They are often included in the workplace health and safety system for organisations where toxicity or carbon dioxide asphyxiation may occur.
What safety issues were found?
The findings specifically highlight three key issues where safe limits are being exceeded.
The maximum carbon dioxide limit of 3%;
the average carbon dioxide limit of 1.5%; and,
the accepted breathing resistance limit is reached in less than 4 minutes of operation, rather than up to 30 minutes of breathable air as is claimed by the manufacturer.
Some of the practical safety issues uncovered during the testing include:
Units are very difficult to remove from their vacuum seal in an emergency, with the bag having to be cut with scissors to remove them.
Rubber plugs (on either side of the chemical canister) often break when trying to remove them. These can then stay stuck in the canister as they break where the string pull attaches to them.
Until the worker is unable to breathe through the unit, the worker would be unaware of this breakage as it is inside the breathing bag where they cannot see it, at which time it may be too late.
What does this mean in the workplace?
Workplaces utilising this self-rescue device are advised to remove it from the workplace immediately. This includes any kept in heavy road transport vehicles.
Employers should also alert all workers of the danger if these were to be used in an emergency and instruct them it is not to be used.
Workplaces should replace the HFZY30 EEBD with a device compliant with the relevant Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1716 Respiratory protection devices). The NSW Resources Regulator has a list of compliant devices you can access.
Train workers in the use of the replacement EEBD and document the process.
Be mindful of any contractors or other businesses who may also be using these in their vehicles during works undertaken at your workplace or on your behalf.
Employers seeking advice on workplace safety should contact Employsure on 1300 651 415.
Debbie Ward, Employment Relations / Work Health and Safety Consultant.
Debbie has been providing consulting services to small and medium business for over 20 years. She has experience in a range of specialties including human resources, WHS, training business management and marketing. With a double major in accounting and human resources, a Diploma in work health and safety and a Cert IV in training, Debbie’s qualifications give her a solid foundation to understand and assist with a myriad of business challenges. This is backed by a genuine desire to help clients resolve their specific employment relations and WHS challenges so they can focus on their core business deliverables.