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News News WA Firefighter of the Year Award
2010’s WA Firefighter of the Year proudly calls Duncraig Fire Station home.

Station Officer Les Holden who has been at the station for the past five years was recently awarded the state’s top fire fighting award by the Fire Emergency Service Authority (FESA) largely for his efforts in improving the safety of the occupation for his colleagues.

A veteran with more than 23.5 years of service was delighted to receive the award, but also felt it was merely part of a long term plan.

“Everyone knows that fire fighting is a dangerous job, we don’t need to convince the public of that, but I think sometimes we can take somethings for granted ourselves so we need to think about how we can make this better for those on the job and also those who have served their time.”

Holden’s concern is not only with the immediate safety fire fighters, but also for their futures.

“Many retired fire fighters face great difficulty following a career in which they were exposed to long-term accumulation of dangerous chemicals and fumes. We must look at the way we do things now so that these long term effects can be minimised and hopefully even eradicated.

The 49 year old believes his passion for fire fighting was handed down from his father who also had a 38 year career in the trade and he was motivated by believing it was important that fireman have say in making their job safer.

“My driving force was improving the long term safety of fire fighters and with the help of my union I was able to improve the consultation process and make sure that fire fighters have input into the everyday decisions that affect fire fighters.

Linda Morich, Occupational Health and Safety Officer at UnionsWA said it was vital such occupations had such structures in place.

“International research has shown that workplaces with a functioning OH&S committees with elected OH&S representatives and are unionised are three times more safe than those without. We all know fire fighting is a dangerous job and Les had worked hard at addressing that by making sure fire fighters have a voice in their safety.”

Holden is also the current Chairman of the FESA OHS committee as voted for by his peers.

Holden joked that the reward for his efforts had been “more work”. However FESA will be sending him to attend the next Australian Fire Fighters Authority Council meeting in Sydney.

When asked whether the award earned him a place in the much publicised Fireman’s Calendar Holden replied he’d only become involved once he knew they would be able to airbrush extensively.

Until then he’ll be looking at other ways to make a positive impact on his profession.

A version of this story also appeared in the Wanneroo Times.
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