CFA member raises wire warning

15 Feb 2018 Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Wangaratta VIC (General News) by Steve Kelly A CFA member who advises on the health and safety of the regions firefighters has warned that continuous wire rope barriers could put personnel in grave danger. Justin Tilson has been in the health and safety role for six years, and although he endorses the use of the wire barriers, he says the rollout must involve a well thought-out approach. Some 300 vehicles collided with wire barriers installed in 2017, but Mr Tilson warns that continuous streams of wire without a break could endanger emergency personnel in bushfire scenarios and reduce safety for members during roadside response. More than 700km of wire barriers have been installed along the Hume between Melbourne and Wodonga alone, costing $89 million of the $340 million dedicated by the State Government to infrastructure improvements on high risk rural roads. We want the wire barriers there because usually it means the difference between responding to a fatality or just an injury with a motor vehicle accident, Mr Tilson said. This is about the parameters as to where theyre installed and the minimum safe distances for not just emergency responders, but even the people who break down on the side of the road. The parameters he refers to are the turnaround points for emergency vehicles and the distance between the roadside and the wire barriers. Mr Tilson, a 20-year CFA veteran, highlighted that emergency responders need a safe space to pull off the freeway away from moving traffic. He also noted that firefighters need a safe and clear way of escaping a fire if they are overwhelmed by the flames or heat. Roadside fires are a common type of incident with catalytic converters under vehicles known to be a regular fire starter. We have been consulting with VicRoads on how we manage it because we do want them there its just how we manage it on freeways and major arterial roads, he said. Steph Ryan (MLA, Euroa) launched a petition last week to halt the rollout of the barriers by the State Government. She has also called on the Premier and Roads Minister to investigate the wire rope barriers amid concerns they might not meet safety standards when a vehicle collides with a barrier. Chiltern owner/driver Poll Kenny raised similar concerns with a friend of hers bouncing off the wire and into another car. Trucks cant go to a place to safely pull over and its extremely dangerous for drivers, Ms Kenny said. The wire also rips cars open like a knife in certain situations. Ms Ryan posted a photo on Twitter on Friday of the roadside of the Hume Freeway being mowed by handheld mowers. Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) fired back at the Oppositions criticism saying it was the Coalition Government who first put the wires in place. Flexible safety barriers are proven to save lives, reducing the risk of head on and run-offroad crashes by 85 per cent thats why were investing them, Ms Symes said. The decision to install barriers was a decision that was made by the Coalition when they were in Government. The barriers that were installed last year have already been hit more than 300 times thats 300 potentially life-threatening collisions avoided. Road safety has traditionally been bipartisan with politicians accepting the advice from the experts, I find it pretty shameful for the Nationals to use important road safety issues for uninformed political point scoring. Funding for the infrastructure improvements is part of the governments $1.1 billion Towards Zero Action Plan, which hopes to eliminate deaths on Victorias roads altogether. To download the Steph Ryans petition go to Caption Text: SAFETY FIRST: CFA North East health and safety adviser Justin Tilson supports the use of the wire barriers by in the right way. PHOTO: Emma Hillier