Fighting for a Safe Workplace for All Firefighters
New York City Firefighters have a legal right to a workplace and equipment that is safe. The Public Employee Safety and Health Act (PESHA) mandates it. When the City breaches that duty, firefighters are entitled to compensation for any injuries that result. Unfortunately, in our experience, firefighter injuries that result from PESHA violations are not as rare as one would hope.
Your firehouse and FDNY training facilities and everything in them must be maintained in a safe manner, free from “recognized hazards”. Things like loose floor tiles, falling ceiling plaster, a cracked or crumbling apron, and inadequate lighting, are real-life examples of conditions that have seriously injured our firefighter clients. While these may seem mundane compared to the risks firefighters face during operations, problems like these can and do end firefighting careers.
PESHA also mandates that firefighters be provided with safe and proper equipment. This includes everything that you use for work, including your apparatus and all of its components, your hoses, tools, pss systems, hoods, gloves, etc.
The failure to provide safety equipment where protection is required may also be a violation of PESHA. For example, the failure to provide firefighters with ropes, which led to the deaths of three firefighters, and horrible injuries to three others at the Black Sunday fire, was one of the more horrific PESHA violations in recent memory.
Some of our Recent PESHA cases
KME pumper trucks – Seven firefighters crushed their thumbs in the crew cab doors of the KME pumper trucks during the rollout period for these new apparatus. The location of the door handles was extremely dangerous, and posed a risk that firefighters would close the door on their thumbs. The firefighters who brought PESHA claims were instrumental having the problem corrected. We have no doubt that if the handles had not been changed, firefighters would have continued to be injured in this manner.
Electrical shock – A fire officer was shocked by a live wire when he reached down to retrieve his tool inside an old and unsafe spare rig. Bare hanging wires were connected to a floor pedal that was no longer in use, and should have been removed years earlier. A small piece of electrical tape could have prevented the accident. The exposed and hidden electrical wire violated PESHA.
Randall’s Island broken concrete – There are a number of places on Randall’s Island where the concrete sidewalks, islands, and curbs have been in horrible shape. We represented a chauffeur-training instructor who blew his knee out while dismounting a training rig when he stepped into a crumbling concrete hole. Photographs taken immediately after the incident show the pavement in disrepair, and witnesses confirmed that it had been like that for a long time.
Command Tactical Vehicle – Our client was inspecting and cleaning equipment on the roof of a command tactical vehicle when his foot became caught in unsecured wires and cables. He fell 12 feet and shattered his ankle. A supervisor said that the cables should have been tacked down. The failure to do so was a violation of PESHA.
Crumbling basement floor in firehouse – Our client was a firefighter who tripped on one of several holes in the firehouse basement floor. He sustained a torn rotator cuff that required surgery. The City was repeatedly asked to make repairs but failed to do so.
How to document a PESHA violation
The best case scenario is that the City addresses problems before someone is hurt. If you see a defect that could cause an injury, you should report it to your officer, and document it in the company journal. Officers should request repairs for unsafe conditions as soon as they learn of them.
You should note on your CD-72 if an unsafe condition played some part in causing your accident. If possible, obtain photographs of the condition as quickly as possible after the accident. Conditions can change, especially after an accident. A photo really is worth a thousand words!