In an effort to protect firefighters from the dangerous effects of smoke inhalation, firefighters in NSW will have the option to use advanced P3 “combi filter” face masks that offer a higher level of respiratory protection.
“Given some of the gases contained within bushfire smoke, the protection afforded by the new P3 masks is deemed to provide a significantly higher level of protection than the existing P2 masks,” a spokesperson from FRNSW said to the ABC.
The existing P2 masks, which are distributed throughout bushfire season, are cheaper and more easily replaced than the new P3 masks. However, the advanced models are much more effective against fine particles, protecting against a range of glasses and dusts including silica, asbestos and sawdust as well as lead and metal dusts.
The FRNSW conducted a trial of the P3 masks involving 400 professional firefighters from 18 stations rating their effectiveness, and also included special Hazardous Materials and Rescue units. The result of the trial showed the masks received a total rating of 3.81/5 by firefighters surveyed. The masks also earned a high grade of 4.04/5 for comfort and 4.73/5 for ease of conversion from existing breathing apparatus.
During last summer’s bushfire crisis, the P3 mask became a topic of discussion among volunteer firefighters. Some said the P3 mask can make breathing more difficult while fighting fires and can interfere with the correct fit of goggles, helmet and flash hoods.
Others claimed the P3 mask is superior during intense bushfire conditions with Deputy Captain Mark Davis of the Picton Rural Fire Brigade stating, “[With a P3 mask] you’re actually breathing through a particulate filter and a number of filters, so the labour of breathing is greater but the air that you receive is cleaner.”
With its heightened ability to filter air and reduce the risk of work-related dust diseases in the firefighting profession, having the option of the P3 mask has been generally received well in the firefighting and rescue community in NSW.
If you have been affected by dust disease, or think you are at risk of dust disease due to your work conditions, you should consult an expert in workers compensation law. The team at Gerard Malouf & Partners, Medical Negligence and Workers Compensation Lawyers can help. Contact them for a free consultation today.