Firefighters protect us. Who protects them?

Source: Mike Hendricks and Matt Campbell, Kansas City Star, 2016

….Tough luck sums it up well on both the regulatory and legal fronts, The Star found in an investigation of shortcomings in firefighter safety. In most occupations, there are rules to follow and legal consequences for flouting them.

Not necessarily with firefighters.

Because local fire departments are subject to no federal workplace safety rules and scant state regulation in much of the country, firefighters cannot count on government to help correct unsafe practices.

“OSHA cannot come in and do nothing for us, because we are not under OSHA,” Waycross, Ga., firefighter Bill Jordan said.

And because the survivors of fallen firefighters generally cannot file wrongful-death lawsuits against fire departments in Missouri, Kansas and most other states, the fear of shelling out big damage awards won’t spur departments to exercise more caution.

That lack of accountability, especially on the regulatory front, officials inside and outside government say, hampers efforts to prevent injuries and line-of-duty deaths…..
Fatal Echoes

About this series:
The Star set out to examine how and why U.S. firefighters die on the job after Kansas City firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio were killed in October 2015.

Reporters Mike Hendricks and Matt Campbell interviewed scores of experts on fire behavior and firefighter safety. Hendricks and photographer/videographer Joe Ledford visited Texas, Georgia, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C., to speak with firefighters and survivors, visit the National Fire Fighters Memorial and observe a federal rule-writing committee in action.

The reporters analyzed hundreds of federal and state fatality investigative reports, five years’ worth of federal workplace safety inspection records and reams of meeting transcripts of an advisory board that recently proposed the first new federal safety regulations governing the fire service in decades.