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Control measure

Manage the risk from infectious diseases

Control measure knowledge

If the incident has been classified as hazardous materials, due to the confirmed or suspected presence of biological hazards (biohazards), the relevant Hazardous materials control measures should be applied.

It may be appropriate to record the presence of biological hazards (biohazards) in Site-Specific Risk Information (SSRI).

Reports detailing local and national trends of notifiable infectious diseases (NOIDs) are published. Further information is available at GOV.UK: Notifiable diseases and causative organisms.

When dealing with the confirmed or suspected presence of infectious diseases, fire and rescue services should manage the risks to personnel using:

  • Vaccinations
  • Personal protection
  • Hygiene arrangements

Some personnel could have existing health conditions that could be impacted by exposure to infectious diseases. For example, allergic reactions that could result in anaphylactic shock. Personnel should report any known conditions to the health department of their fire and rescue service, and to the incident commander.

For more information refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication, Infection at work: controlling the risk.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations can immunise personnel against some diseases that they may be exposed to during operational activity. The activity of personnel, working environments and the prevalence of diseases, if known, in their area will determine which vaccinations are appropriate.

Personal protection

The type of personal protection used should be determined by the anticipated transmission method of infectious diseases:

  • Inhalation:
    • Good ventilation
    • Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) appropriate to the hazard
  • Absorption:
    • Avoid skin contact with the hazard
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) that prevents contact including protective or disposable gloves and eye protection
    • Strict hygiene procedures
  • Ingestion:
    • Avoid eating, drinking, smoking and vaping
  • Injection:
    • Avoidance or isolation of the cause of injection
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) that provides protection from the cause of injection
    • Consider the use of a sharps container for the disposal of clinical waste

Hygiene arrangements

Good hygiene practices can reduce the transmission of infectious diseases. This may include:

  • Welfare facilities
  • Antibacterial wash or wipes

Personnel should avoid eating, drinking, smoking or vaping before effective hygiene or decontamination procedures have been completed.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider recording the presence of biological hazards (biohazards) in SSRIs

  • Seek specialist advice to determine an appropriate vaccination plan

  • Vaccinate personnel against infectious diseases where appropriate

  • Provide suitable equipment to protect against infectious diseases

  • Have suitable arrangements for the disposal of clinical waste

  • Provide personnel with appropriate hygiene arrangements

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Identify potential sources of infectious diseases

  • Ensure personnel cover open wounds, cuts and grazes with a waterproof dressing prior to operational activity

  • Determine if any personnel have existing health conditions that could be impacted by exposure to infectious diseases

  • Request sufficient resources to enable hygiene or decontamination procedures to be implemented

  • Implement appropriate hygiene or decontamination procedures 

  • Ensure that personnel refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or vaping prior to completing hygiene or decontamination procedures