West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has launched a DVD to teach people about the safe use of home oxygen, following a tragic fire in January 2010.

Joyce Forth of Halifax died after she lit a cigarette while her oxygen machine was still on. Her death last year prompted a major project, where WYFRS carried out extensive research into home oxygen services, and the processes involved in their assessment, prescription and management.

WYFRS has taken a number of positive steps towards improving the safety of home oxygen users, with the latest being the production of a home oxygen DVD to be distributed throughout the UK. The DVD will be used to educate staff working in organisations involved in the assessment, prescription and supply of home oxygen services, such as the health service, local authorities and home oxygen suppliers, as well as fire and rescue service staff providing safety advice.

The DVD project, which WYFRS took the lead on with Cheshire, Merseyside and Essex fire services, was funded by the three home oxygen suppliers in the UK (Air Products, Air Liquide and BOC). It has also been backed by West Yorkshire Coroner Roger Whittaker.

WYFRS has also worked with Air Products, the charity British Lung Foundation and a local government scheme 'Smoke Free Yorkshire and Humber' to produce a home fire safety advice leaflet aimed at oxygen users. The leaflet is now part of safety advice given by fire crews and fire safety prevention staff when visiting home oxygen users. It is also used by Air Products when installing home oxygen supplies and other agencies supporting users.

Information received on a monthly basis from Air Products (the only supplier of home oxygen in West Yorkshire) is shared with fire service prevention teams to ensure that home fire safety checks are carried out at the homes of oxygen users, inspections are completed in residential care facilities, and information is shared with local fire crews.

A pilot training programme has been set up with Calderdale PCT, which educates support teams working with oxygen users on the fire risks and hazards associated with oxygen use. Teams can refer anyone they believe 'at risk' through to WYFRS.

West Yorkshire Coroner, Roger Whittaker, told FIRE: "I have conducted a number of inquests into fatal fires involving the use of long-term oxygen therapy, all of which have involved the victim smoking whilst using oxygen. The increase in oxygen levels turns a relatively slow smouldering cigarette into what can only be described as a blow torch. The oxygen then allows other items in the area to literally burst into flames. The effects on the individual are obvious, the impact on family and loved ones is unimaginable."


Date posted: 27.01.11