HARTFORD, CT Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas said his department is in the process of fixing work safety violations, Friday, after meeting with Officials from Connecticut’s Divisional Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday.
In March, the department received five “serious” citations after a Connecticut OSHA investigation into the death of firefighter Kevin Bell. The department will have to pay a $4,000 penalty.
The violations issued to the department and their proposed solutions include:
Citation 1: Did not issue and require the use of protective fire/heat-resistant hoods.
Solution: Each firefighter will be trained and issued a hood prior to July 27, 2015.
Citation 2: All firefighters had not received required medical evaluations prior to fit testing their breathing gear to prevent inhaling poison gases.
Solution: Since citations were issued, all department members have had an OSHA physical prior to fit testing.
Citation 3: Did not ensure that all firefighters had been fit tested for their breathing apparatus within the past 12 months.
Solution: The department bough a new fit testing machine and will begin fit testing members immediately. All members will be fit tested by July 2015.
Citation 4: Did not ensure that all air cylinders underwent hydrostatic testing every five years.
Solution: Non-compliant cylinders were immediately removed from service. Department initiated a program to replace the entire inventory of cylinders prior to the end of 2015.
Citation 5: Did not ensure that firefighters wore personal protective equipment according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Solution: This item was corrected on March 25, 2015.
According to Interim Assistant Fire Chief Scott Brady, it will cost the department roughly $50,000 to issue hoods to everyone. It will also cost around $1.3 million to replace all of the department’s breathing gear.
A firefighter union email written just hours before the CONNOSHA meeting discussed, in part, one of the violations: that firefighters weren’t using fire-resistant hoods, which are considered standard equipment for firefighters. The letter said that the HFD will “cease the practice of any member’s [sic] hoods.” The union president said firefighters will eventually be issued a hood but not before “a proper risk analysis and evaluation” is performed and not before “proper training” is conducted.
The Hartford Fire Department also issued a directive on Wednesday advising firefighters that they must wear their protective gear, with the exception of department-issued protective fire/heat resistant hoods, “which shall not be worn until further notice.” That directive says that any firefighter found wearing gear not issued by the department will be disciplined.
However, the department did say in a statement that it has “begun the process of field testing and developing the appropriate training curriculum to ensure that every man and woman in the Department will have been properly trained and issued a hood prior to July 27, 2015.”
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a federal government agency responsible for protecting people and the environment from hazardous situations by setting national policies, does not say in its guidelines that hoods are required but advises their use. “It is recommended that a flame resistant protective head covering such as a hood or snood, which will not adversely affect the seal of a respirator facepiece, be worn during interior structural fire fighting operations to protect the sides of the face and hair,” the guidelines said.
The Emergency Response Guidebook from 2008 said structural firefighters’ protective clothing should include a “helmet, coat, pants, boots, gloves and a hood to cover parts of the head not protected by the helmet and face piece.”
Here is the full letter from the union:
The Department has recently been cited by OSHA because the entire Department has not been issued protective hoods. These hoods have been handed out to various recruit classes over the last three years without direct authorization from the Department. We the Union have always and continue to convey to the Department we are not opposed to the utilization of hoods. But a proper risk analysis and evaluation must be performed (as stated by OSHA Regulations), and that proper training must be conducted by the Department to all members. When this happens hoods will be issued to all member’s who may perform Fire Suppression activities. Based upon all of the above the Department has no alternative but to cease the practice of member’s wearing hoods as they have not been issued as part of the PPE ensemble to the entire Department as stated in the OSHA citation. The current PPE ensemble that is currently issued meets all current OSHA standards as related to structural fire fighting.