Subject: Near Miss/Potential Risk Fire Vehicle
Preliminary report and photos on a Near Miss/ Potential Risk (and I do mean a near miss and Potential Risk).
All the funny's aside (you've been shafted, you don't need a seat belt with that type of seat restraint, is your passenger alert, why do the fire guys sit on their helmets ect, ect) this could have been far more serious had there been a person in the passenger seat. I guess this is one case where working in the field alone had a positive outcome.
At approx 0845hrs even date I was conducting preburn checks of the firebreak system in the Churchill Mine area north of Maryborough. The firebreak I was travelling on was in good condition having recently been slashed with a grass height of approx 10 cm, the surface was reasonably smooth and I was travelling at approx 15kph in the Nissin Patrol Ute QG132Y.
With little noise or noticeable impact the carry bag that I had sitting on the passenger seat containing: camera, EPIRB, pens/pencils, wallet, weather checker and all the other sundry items we generally carry erupted upwards and towards the diver side, unfortunately at the time I had the window (driver side) open so most of the items went out the window.
I did the initial 2-3 second (what's happened here thing) and then looked at the passenger seat (recently vacated by my carry bag) and noticed a timber spike protruding about 150mm from the seat. I must admit my initial thought was that's something you don't see every day and it would truly make your eyes water, however, the seriousness of the situation set in I realized just how potentially dangerous the incident was and what would have happened if there had been someone sitting in the seat or if it had come up through the driver side seat with me in it.
On close inspection under the vehicle, a 70mm diam stick approx 1m long was jammed in tight beside the passenger side chassis rail, the stick had penetrated the floor through a plastic floor pan plug about the same diameter. It had continued upwards through the floor covering, the base springs in the seat, the top seat cushion and finally the canvas seat cover. At the time the Speedo/odometer failed and I suspect that the stick has damaged/severed the wiring harness beside the chassis rail.
At 0900hrs (Fire team call in time for estimated high risk remote area procedure) I contacted Perry at the office and advised of the incident, a careful check over the vehicle revealed it was still serviceable/drivable, I advised Perry that I was retuning to the Maryborough office to get the vehicle repaired. The vehicle has been sent for insurance repair quotes and the WH&S incident investigation commenced.
My immediate thought regarding this incident is: It highlights the potential for foreign objects to penetrate a significant distance through the floor of these type of vehicles with the possibility of serious injury or death.
Given the off road type conditions that the fire vehicles generally are operated in and whilst it is fairly unlikely that the object would impact directly on the small plastic floor plug, given the results I believe that urgent remedial action should be taken to prevent this type of occurrence happening in the future. This could be as simple as retro fitting a 100mm square metal plate over the plastic plugs.
I must admit that the simple and common sound of a stick hitting the bottom of the vehicle now has a whole new meaning.