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There is a lot of lip service given to meeting NFPA and we should strive to exceed these minimum standards, but the more I travel the more I realize that many departments do not meet the minimum OSHA training standards that are required by law. Where does your department fit in?

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Frank, it is unfortunate that the majority of departments don't meet the "minimum" standards. The fire service culture has complacently accepted the minimum standard as the ultimate goal. It seems the minimum standard has become the maximum expectation.
This is a double edged sword. I know that many of you may disagree with this and that's fine but understand that there are many departments out there trying to protect the public the same as any other that can't or barely meet the minimum standards. Until a couple of months ago I was a Captain on a department that had a total operating budget of 20K a year. No that isn't a typo it was twenty thousand dollars a year. Yes the city had to purchase and maintain the apparatus but the rest was on us. Guess how much we had left after insurance, hydroing air bottles, and trying to buy a couple sets of new gear. When I first came on our accountability system was a pad and a pen. We couldn't swing the 350.00 for tags. One day I decided to call a local trophy shop and ask about the plastic name plates, and contacted the hardware store about rings and clips. The total came to just over a hundred bucks and our accountability system was born. I'm not blowing my horn, it is just things as simple as a tag that can keep our folks safe and some departments can't swing it. We focused on training and safety and not on the minimum standards. While I agree that we all need to do better we can't get to the point where only the big budget departments are the only ones that can fight fires. Rural homes burn just as bright as those in the larger cities.
complying with standards through training and documenting same protects not only both the FF and the CO, but also the dept. We have had instances where a Capt did not comply with one of our standards, in this case it was a bloodborne policy and then tried to bring litigation against the dept. for not properly training him when he gor himself exposed to a pathogen. The dept. had records that he signed including he had attended platoon level training on same and records of a drill he ran with his company on blooodborne procedures.
We had another case where some guys caled OSHA in about a condition in the firehouse that was beling attended to but not as quicklyy as they liked. OSHA came in and the first thing they asked was to see the SCBA rescords. Thgis was not even an SCBA-related case. The Captains did not have the records up to date, and as a result they were brought up on dept charges. (this had happened and had been addressed previously so thse guys were aware of their duties and the consequences)
Unfortunatley litigation is an ugly but realistic side of the job. The only way to bombproof yourself and your dept is to strive to meet those standards and ensure it is documented. By these I mean OSHA-related standards like haz mat, bloodborne, respiratory protection (including minimum hours of SCBA training) mask fit testing, etc. and NFPA 1001 which, acording to the standards, a FF myust re-qualify on every year. Get creative in your drills and you will be able to document that you met these standards. We have 4 compliance forms that cover the OSGHA stuff, the NFPA stuff for FF's and CO's and the department-mandated qualification that are filled out as the year runs its course. Each guy has his own 4 sheets.
I'm not saying it is easy and unfortunately, the one standard we want them to meet, staffing, usually goes un-met. This is out of our hands. All we can do as company officers, chief officers, and dept. administrators is to provide the support system whereby department members are able to show they have met the standard. I know this is a lousy system and can be watered down, based on whether the CO is worth his salt or is just a blank-filler, but the real bite of reality comes when u r in the courtroom and you cannot explain why your personnel have not met minimum standards. Just read the NIOSH and OSHA LODD reports,the standards are where the hats are hung when analyzing what went right or wrong, agree with it or not.
The 21st century is known as the CYA century. Just an opinion based on reality and experience
stya safe
Hey Frank,

First it's nice to see my son helping you out with the page! Second, My Department has had issues for many years with documentation and meeting standards. For the most part only the fire fighters that had any respect for themselves and family were the ones that made sure they met the standards and had attended courses to further their education to become better firefighters. This being said, as captain of my company we took the CYA approach, that if we took the time after each call to meet the standard required or what was required once a month and year we found more time to train and do other things. All the time complaining about the standards and not addressing them was time wasted and if something happened would work against us. Now we are being asked to establish the same system for the other companies that are not up to the standards," which we will ". BUT, if they do not continue with the system it will be time lost, and for their failure to keep it up, there will be no accountability. We spend more time complaining and blaming others when its always been in our control if we just did what was required. The first three months of the year we complete our refreshers,last wednesday of each month,apparatus,SCBA ,EMS EQUIP. Tools, Gear including Mask, ETC. all done, monthy training 3 times, Equipment check after each " FIRE" That,s the requirement, done, documented and in a binder. Not Hard if you want to do it, WE do ! We have a mandatory seat belt policy to. They have all become SOG's! We must remember, "EVERYONE GOES HOME" starts with policies and standards, theirs or ours !

STAFE SAFE !! Dennis
Frank, many department leaders fell that the NFPA and OSHA standards are to restrictive or will cost them to much money in unnecessary staffing. The big argument is that these are just guidelines and can therefore be disregarded. What all of these people do not understand is something I learned a while ago after dealing with OSHA.
The NFPA and OSHA guidelines become "a measurable and enforceable standard" if and when the federal government comes in to do an investigation for a serious injury or line of duty death.
In short, once the problem has become a tragedy the federal government can come in and hold the department to the standards that were once just a recommendation. Can you play the odds and save money? Sure. If you get caught and come up short it is really going to hurt the FD.


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