Nigel Stapleton - Firefighter
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Introducing .....................Nigel Stapleton, 1st Class Firefighter, Mackay.
Nigel Stapleton is a 1st class guy!
As a 1st Class fire fighter in Mackay, Nigel says it’s the best job anyone can do. For the past three and half years he has been there to help out the community in their time of need. Nigel also proclaimed that he would be a firefighter for the rest of his life.
In his previous life Nigel was a train driver, the long hours and shift work there put him in good stead to fall into the shift work lifestyle of the fire service. “There is a routine, and they drill into you to check your equipment”. Nigel says he values the experience of the older firefighters and has kept a mental note of a statement once made to him by a senior officer who was teaching him the ins and outs of the vehicle check, “Whenever you check over your vehicle, imagine that you it could be your family or loved ones you will be needing to rush to, so know your vehicle inside and out and make sure everything works”. To this day, Nigel takes pride and ownership of the trucks, their contents and fellow firefighters and is always battle ready.
The fire service operates in a faced paced, dynamic environment where small incidents can quickly escalate into major events. It is this that Nigel drills for, to respond to and adapt to a changing environment.
OHS within the fire service begins with knowing your equipment and maintaining it in top order. Any defective equipment is quickly identified and taken out of circulation to be replaced or fixed, this includes the vehicles, tools, chainsaws, disc cutters, radios, breathing apparatus, road crash rescue gear (RCR), pumps, thermal imaging equipment (TIC) and even their turnout gear (the heavy yellow pants and coats).
As firefighters can be called upon to perform challenging and at times technically difficult work such as, swift water and vertical rescue, and in addition to this, carrying heavy or bulky equipment over difficult terrain it is part of their work and life culture to maintain a standard of peak physical fitness. Each station is outfitted with a maintained gym where crews can go and workout during downtime. This fitness for duty ensures every physical task performed such as, lifting, carrying, climbing, driving for long hours is ergonomically sound which in turn prevents injury.
The harsh reality of fire fighters today involves more vehicle accidents and other rescues than structural fires which have decreased over recent years. At road crash rescue scenes there are several major hazards to consider and mitigate against; i.e., bodily fluids (blood, vomit etc), vehicles that have caught on fire, fire that has escaped into neighboring bush, fuel and oil spills presenting a fire and slip/trip risk, the final impact position of the vehicles and livestock involved. Fuel tankers pose a larger risk to the firefighters, police and ambulance crews and to the environment.
Equipment is loaded and unloaded on trucks by two wherever possible; this teamwork ensures crews do get unnecessarily fatigued which is when most accidents happen.
Climbing in and out of trucks has a procedure of its own, 3 points contact at all times getting into and out of a truck. When exiting the truck it is backwards and never jump off.
Unique to Mackay Base Hospital is the addition of a new MRI machine. Crews have familiarized themselves with the safety considerations for this piece of equipment. Importantly, firefighters must get entry instructions from hospital staff as the highly magnetized room could rip equipment from them. For their safety there are yellow lines delineating where they can be.
Fatigue management is vital consideration as is hours worked. Maintaining hydration levels is promoted and managed through advice provided by the WHS officer. When working in during hot environments (through fire or weather) heat stress can impair cognitive functions as can dehydration. Crews are encouraged to seek shade wherever possible, and if needed are able to remove their overcoats for cooling down.
Psychological aspects of firefighting mean that at times traumatic scenes may impact some more than others, as such, peer supporters are promoted and also ‘activated’ to be available for psychological first aid. If further assistance is needed the service has an employee assistance program they can access called Fire care.
Nigel says “It’s all in a days work”.
Introducing.......Michael Brannan, Recreational Pilot & Flight Instructor
Michael Brannan or ‘Mick’ is passionate about flying, and teaching others to fly.
Mick is a recreational aviation flight instructor. He has been doing this for about 5 years.
An Ab Initio flight instructor in a recreational registered aircraft (which is registered with Recreational Aviation Australia RAA), less than 600kg gross takeoff (fuel and people) weight with a maximum of 2 seats. What this means Mick tells me, is that he teaches students who have no flight experience or from scratch.
Mick lives in Mackay but commutes to Brisbane regularly to work for Pathway Aviation in Archerfield. Mick is also a career firefighter. He has been doing this for the past 4 to 5 years and has loved every bit of it. He says that he loves interacting with people and watching them achieve their goals, it fills him with pride to see that. For Mick it’s a both challenging and rewarding. Mick’s own goal is working towards achieving a commercial pilot rating.
OHS is paramount in the aviation industry as small mistakes have the potential to become disastrous.
Safety considerations Mick explains begin with a preflight plan. This includes a thorough analysis of the impending weather, the distance that is planned, the amount of passengers, the weight of the plane with cargo and passengers. This enables calculation of fuel usage against distance to be travelled.
There is also the emergency contingency plan, which maps out the locations of alternate landing sites should something go wrong with the plane or the weather turns bad.
A Chief flying instructor at the school manages each pilot. One of his roles is the audit of time management or flying hours for every pilot. Each pilot is responsible for logging flying hours and these are reviewed regularly. The function of this is to mitigate against fatigue. The pilots have time constraints with the hours allowed to fly. For example, Mick explains they are not allowed more than 2 consecutive early mornings and have limited duty hours.
Fatigue can be responsible for loss of concentration, slowed cognitive functions over time which can impact spatial awareness. These are vital for a pilot. Other causes of fatigue or reduced functions can be from alcohol, lack of sleep and drugs in the system. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) guidelines include: No legal drugs (that have negative effects) or illegal drugs are allowed in the system, no alcohol in the system for 10 hrs prior to flying, in addition, pilots cannot be affected by residual alcohol.
Also must not be under the influence or affected by drugs or alcohol and be well rested.
Eligible students must undergo assessment before being accepted as a student pilot.
They must undertake an English assessment, to be able to read and comprehend maps and instructions. Be able to hold a car license, and undergo a Class 1 medical test.
For safety, students’ concentration has been predetermined at 0.7 of an hour which equates to 45-50 minutes. Further to this, students flying/teaching time cannot exceed more than two lessons back to back.
Students’ learning is staged so they are not overwhelmed.
In the air, Mick described making the students comfortable as some tend to feel sick, as some students have thrown up mid-air. Mick describes how would mitigate against this by doing several things;
*Monitor and assesses the student for signs of unease or distress as lessons termed “turning lessons” tend to make students nauseous.
*In this instance the lessons are transitioned back to a manageable style, or reduced time.
*Distracting students by giving them a job can ease this feeling.
*Flying in a manner that increases air flow through the cabin can increase oxygenation and thus improving the students colour.
*Biological waste (vomit) is contained in sick bags which Mick has the privilege of stating he’s never had to use personally with his students, although some have come very close.
Ergonomically, the seat can be adjusted by using cushions to suit the student and rudder pedals adjusted for shorter people. On long flights, greater than 3hrs, sore backs can become problematic so there are gel seat pads that can be used to make it more comfortable.
The controls in a small craft are placed at easy reach of the pilot, making the confined space nature of the cockpit not as confining.
Ingress and egress from the plane is the same, with some agility students duck under the wing careful not to hit their heads.
Aircraft are shared between pilots and must be checked over at regular intervals.
Every 25 hrs the engine oil is changed.
Every 50 hrs the planes undergo a Mid-level Service.
Every 100 hrs the planes undergo a full service. This means the plane is stripped, pulled apart and every facet of the plane is checked, replaced if needed, tested and put back together again.
Re-fuelling, is a careful process as ‘avgas’ is highly flammable. Refuellers wear protective clothing and decant fuel carefully into the plane. Chemical spill kits are kept nearby.
OHS in the Air:
Noise can be hazard which is why pilots must wear headsets. There are two varieties. 1. One style employs passive noise reduction and 2. Includes a noise cancelling function for certain frequencies. The latter style is used more for long flights and with an instructor.
The temperature at high altitudes can become extremely cold and at lower altitudes may become hot. There are vents that can be opened to cool a plan plus changing to a higher altitude can change the temperature by a few degrees.
Spending a minimal time on the ground will also contribute to keeping the cockpit cool.
The performance of the plane and comfort of the pilot can be made by flying early in the mornings.
Other potential hazards include, debris on the runway, birdstrikes, electrical storms, UFO abductions, cargo not fixed, and panicked student pilots.
When Mick talks about flying, you can see this passion in his eyes. A dedicated teacher who does everything he can to make flying a pleasurable experience.
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