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Legislation

As of April 1 2008, The Swedish Work Environment Authority issued new directives, AFS 2007:7, concerning chemical diving and smoke diving. The object of these directives is as far as possible to ensure safe work environments for firemen in connection with rescue operations.

Smoke diving will always be one of the main tasks in the Rescue Services, but technical equipment such as cutting extinguishers, thermo cameras and positive pressure fans create improved possibilities in firefighting. Combined action, using these tools, demonstrates all the more frequently that fire can be combated from a safe position outside a burning building.

Smoke diving is one of the most hazardous work assignments being permitted and it is one of the most physically demanding. Smoke diving involves serious risks and subjects firefighting personnel to extreme stress. Personnel are subjected to both physical risks (such as intense heat, explosion, falling parts of buildings, sharp objects, and the risk of falling when the range of vision is reduced or is nonexistent) as well as mental risks due to extremely stressful situations.
Fire gases contain carbon monoxide and several other hazardous substances (gases and particles) of unknown concentration. Modern materials, eg, plastics, often used in building material, furniture, and composite material, increase health risks as they may produce large amounts of smoke. Furthermore, they emit hazardous substances when heated. Smoke from fires can cause breathing difficulties and poisoning.

An extensive American research survey of 110,000 firemen indicates that they run greater risk than other occupational groups of being affected by different types of cancer, mainly testicular cancer, cancer of the prostate gland, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma.

Taking the above into consideration, there should always be an available alternative to smoke diving for internal firefighting. Cutting Extinguishing can in many circumstances quickly affect the course of a fire, by reducing temperature in the fire area with the object of improving safety for subsequent internal firefighting by a smoke diving group.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority continues, "External firefighting should be considered as the primary option" and that " There are methods for fast initial action by external firefighting (eg, Fast Response Unit *). In favourable conditions, this results in a fire being put under control at an early stage. Thereby reducing the need
of action by smoke diving”.

*) Fast Response Unit (According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority): "An organisation form consisting of two people, enabling fast initial rescue action while waiting for reinforcement. It is essential that personnel manning the offensive unit have participated in special training and exercises. A Fast Response Unit also places high demands on equipment. This means a small vehicle fitted with at least one set of equipment for external firefighting, such as Cutting Extinguishers, IR cameras, and equipment for PPV, and technical command support (The Cutting Extinguisher Concept)”.

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