Reporting of breathing apparatus malfunctions by fire & rescue services and other users

OC 208/6: Reporting of breathing apparatus malfunctions by fire & rescue services and other users

This OC clarifies the instances of breathing apparatus (BA) failure which are reportable to HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) by fire & rescue services and other BA users, and the action to be taken on receipt of such notifications.

Legal requirements

1 The failure of BA in circumstances detailed in RIDDOR Schedule 2, part 1 (see para 9) constitutes a dangerous occurrence which the responsible person should notify to HSE  within 10 days of the incident make a report by completing a F2508 in accordance with RIDDOR reg.3(1).

2 Schedule 2 Part 1 para 9 which defines those BA failures which should be reported states:
"Any incident in which breathing apparatus malfunctions while in use, or during  testing immediately prior to use in such a way  that had the malfunction occurred while the apparatus was in use it would  have posed a danger to the health or safety of the user.  This paragraph shall not apply to such apparatus while it is being:-

  • a) used in a mine; or
  • b) maintained or tested as part of a routine maintenance procedure.

3 This definition has given rise to confusion as to the extent of the requirement to notify in different situations where failures have occurred, in particular during training and preparation for use. It is the likelihood of exposing the BA wearer to danger which should be used as the determining criterion. For guidance the reportability of BA malfunctions in various circumstances is set out in the Appendix.

Action by fire and rescue services

4 Following a notifiable failure which involves a fatal or major injury, fire and rescue services  should notify HSE forthwith to establish whether HSE wish to take part in the examination of any equipment involved. In the absence of HSE involvement fire and rescue services are free to make their own arrangements for investigation which may involve the BA supplier.

Action by inspectors

5  The following paragraphs provide some additional practical guidance when dealing with fire & rescue services.

6 Following receipt of a telephoned notification in accordance with RIDDOR reg.3(1) the fire & rescue service should be advised without delay whether HSE intends to be involved with the examination of the equipment. If a detailed examination is likely to be necessary, eg as a result of a fatality, SG, HSL and the Police, Fire and NOMs Unit should be informed at an early stage. The BA set should be taken into possession and should not be dismantled or interfered with apart from noting the reading on the contents gauge, and if necessary, turning off the main cylinder valve whilst noting the number of turns required to do so.  To prevent potential exposure to contamination the facemask should be stored in a separate suitable bag for protection but without disconnecting from the rest of the set.  Arrangements for the transport of BA sets to HSL should be agreed with SG/HSL.

7 Any necessary follow up action with manufacturers should be discussed with your local Product Safety Team (PST) and a way forward agreed. The Police, Fire and NOMs Unit should be informed of any action that is purposed to be taken in respect of BA used by the fire and rescue service.

8 In respect of failures which are not investigated by HSE, inspectors are advised to request copies of reports prepared by fire & rescue services and/or manufacturers and to prepare COIN summaries based on these.

Non-reportable faults

9 Where under maintenance or test, or during use in a non-contaminated atmosphere (including use in cosmetic smoke) in circumstances where the wearer is able to continue to breathe safely independently of the apparatus by removing the facemask, a failure occurs or a fault is detected, arrangements exist for fire & rescue services to report failure to manufacturers. These arrangements should continue. Investigation of such failure is the responsibility of the fire & rescue service and/or manufacturer.

Annotation of instructions

10 OC 282/14 -note: "See OC 208/6".

17 September 1991


Disc Ref: FOD1C/Editors/J365/23.8.91/DS/DH

(New Disc Ref: J:\Editors\CA1\J365Au91.sam)

ASI headings

Breathing apparatus and respirators: dangerous occurrences: fire authorities: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.

Appendix (para 3)

Reportability of ba malfunctions

1 Malfunctions in the following circumstances are reportable under RIDDOR:

  • (1)Any discovered or occurring during actual use in a contaminated atmosphere.
  • (2)Any discovered or occurring during checking when use in a contaminated atmosphere is imminent ie:
    • (a) on fire service operations;
    • (b)on fire service training where entry to a contaminated atmosphere is planned.
  • (3)Any occurring or discovered while equipment is still being worn after leaving the contaminated atmosphere in 2(a) and 2(b) above.
  • (4)Any discovered during any immediate check or during maintenance of equipment after use in 2(a) or 2(b) above.
  • (5)Any occurring during use either in fresh air or in contaminated atmosphere where, due to restriction on the wearer's ability to operate the controls of the apparatus or remove the mask, there is an actual or potential deprivation of oxygen to the wearer.

2 Malfunctions in the following circumstances are not reportable under RIDDOR:

  • (1)Any discovered during routine checking of equipment at the start of the working day.
  • (2)Any discovered during checking when use for training, other than in a contaminated atmosphere, or confined space, is imminent.
  • (3)Any occurring during or immediately after training at 2(2) above.
  • (4)Any discovered during routine tests or maintenance, including periodic inspections.
  • Note: use in cosmetic smoke is not regarded as use in a contaminated atmosphere.

3 Malfunctions which should be reportable informally to manufacturers and to HSE at discretion of the fire and rescue service:

  • (1) All malfunctions described in 2(1) to 2(4) above.
  • (2) Any other significant malfunction.

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Updated 2020-12-11