Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: FireFighter’s Death

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Last year, a tragic set of events took the life of an on-duty Baltimore City fire safety officer. Following its investigation of the death, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released its official findings. The report includes a list of mistakes that were made as well as recommendations for the prevention of future tragedies.

Account of the Event

On November 12, 2014 fire fighters were called to a vacant row home where they encountered a fire on the rear stairway that extended up to the second floor. The Incident Commander at the scene called for additional engine and truck companies, and a second battalion chief and shift safety officer were sent. The fire was quickly brought under control and crews set about clearing the area of smoke using ventilation fans.

Crews working inside the adjacent row home observed that the ground-level floor had been completely removed but did not report this hazard to the commander before exiting. At some point, the shift safety officer entered this area alone and fell through the hole in the floor, sustaining minor injuries to his head and face. No one realized he was missing until several hours later, when crews were sent to investigate his unattended vehicle that was reported to be blocking traffic. Sadly, by the time crews finally found him, it was too late. The cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation.

Contributing Factors

In a summary of its investigation, the NIOSH cited several contributing factors that could have led to the fatal workplace accident. They were:

  • Floor system at the rear of the building was completely removed prior to incident
  • The hole in the floor posed a serious fire hazard, but was not reported to the incident commander
  • Ventilation of smoke accumulation in the basement area was not properly completed
  • Shift safety officer entered the area alone
  • Fireground accountability was ineffective
  • Crew integrity was not maintained and single unit resources operated alone
  • Dispatchers placed shift safety officer in service without verbal confirmation of his location

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should establish a personal accountability system requiring a check-in and check-out procedure with a designated accountability officer or incident commander. Fire fighters should also be required to report when tasks are completed or cannot be completed.
  • All resources should be accounted for before the incident commander dissolves his command.
  • Fire departments should train fire fighters on the principles of situational awareness and empower them to report unsafe conditions to Incident Command.
  • Fire departments should ensure that every fire fighter on the fire ground uses a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device. They should also be able to provide a PASS device to anyone operating in a potentially dangerous environment not requiring the use of a self-contained breathing apparatus.
  • Single resource units (safety officers, fire investigators, etc.) should never enter a potentially dangerous environment alone.
  • Fire departments should ensure that Mayday training programs are developed and implemented so that they adequately prepare fire fighters to call a Mayday.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Families of Public Safety Workers Killed In the Line of Duty

While no amount of money can ever relieve the emotional pain caused by the loss of a loved one, it can help to ease the financial burden placed on dependents of the deceased. If someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in a workplace accident, Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. Call 844-556-4LAW (4529) today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our compassionate and highly skilled Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers.