New York Personal Injury Attorneys
What Are My Rights as a Volunteer Firefighter?
Volunteer firefighters take great risks to keep our community safe. Even though their jobs may come with a higher risk of danger than others, volunteer firefighters are still entitled to a certain level of safety while working. Below, the firefighter injury lawyers at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. outline current regulations put in place that ensure a volunteer firefighter’s right to a safe workplace.
Firefighters’ Workplace Safety Regulations
Federal law requires all employers to keep a safe workplace. While a volunteer firefighter’s workplace may pose a higher risk of danger than others, it is not exempt from safety regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safer workplaces across all industries. OSHA develops federal laws that regulate safety practices, ensuring that employees are properly trained, have access to the necessary safety equipment required for their jobs, and are working in safe conditions. OSHA’s guidelines also require that management teams take the proper steps to ensure employee safety.
OSHA and Fire Departments
Partnering with the United States Department of Labor, OSHA sets guidelines for the “organization, training and personal protective equipment” of all fire departments. OSHA guidelines apply to volunteer fire brigades, industrial fire departments, and private or contractual fire departments. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to all of these entities as fire departments.
Fire Fighting Equipment and Protective Clothing
Fire departments are required to inspect equipment at least annually to ensure safe operational conditions. Portable fire extinguishers and respirators must be inspected at least monthly. All equipment that is damaged or deemed unserviceable must be removed and replaced.
In addition, OSHA regulates the protective clothing that a department must provide to its firefighters. Fire departments are to provide clothing and equipment that protects firefighters’ feet, legs, hands, body, eyes, face and head, as well as respiratory protection. All clothing and equipment must be adept at protecting firefighters from common dangers in an emergency setting such as heat, open flames, smoke, water, falling debris and ash. Fire departments must also ensure that all members of the departments are wearing the necessary protective equipment anytime they are performing emergency duties.
Firefighters’ Right of Risk Refusal
In addition to regulations put into place to ensure that safety measures are being upheld, firefighters and other first responders are also granted the right of risk refusal.
The right of risk refusal allows firefighters to refuse to work in an environment deemed beyond the reasonable risk of the job. While risk is assumed with a firefighting position, firefighters are given the right to a reasonably safe work environment, just as employees in all industries are.
The California Professional Firefighters use the following benchmarks to indicate if a work environment is safe or unsafe:
- Are there violations of safe work practices?
- Are environmental conditions making the work unsafe?
- Do any employees lack the necessary qualifications or experiences?
- Is defective equipment being used?
If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’, then a firefighter may safely exercise their right of risk refusal.
Discuss Your Case With a New York Firefighter Injury Lawyer
At Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C., we understand the sacrifices that volunteer firefighters make to help keep our communities safe. If you or someone you love was harmed while performing the duties of a volunteer firefighter and believe that one of the safety regulations mentioned above may have been violated, consult an attorney today. Our team of firefighter injury attorneys have decades of experience in this unique area of litigation. Call us today for a free consultation at (212)-732-9000 or fill out the form below.