Phoenix OSHA Citation and Milwaukee Scapegoat

There were several fire law cases this week that I missed covering that are really worth noting. Here are two of them:

The first is a $95,000 citation by the Industrial Commission of Arizona against the Phoenix Fire Department arising out of the death of a firefighter Brad Harper, 23, last May. Harper was pinned between two pieces of apparatus as one began backing without spotters assigned.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona (or Arizona State OSHA) issued two citations to the department, one a serious-wilful citation and the other a regulatory citation. The serious-wilful citation was a general duty clause violation for failing to

“furnish employees with “a place of employment … free from recognized hazards …  likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees, in that the employer did not require the use of a spotter when backing up fire fighting vehicles”

The fine amount listed in the general duty violation notice was $70,000. The regulatory citation was for a “willful or repeat violation” that caused a death, and was assessed at $25,000. Here is a copy of the citation. Citation

 

The second case is a follow-up to the Milwaukee case covered earlier this month where firefighters allegedly trashed a fire station because they were upset with being transferred. The chief ordered the transfers because he was concerned about the culture in the station.

Firefighters are accused of  responding to the transfers by:

  • “relieving themselves throughout the building,”
  • breaking kitchen equipment
  • hanging a dead mouse inside Engine 32
  • breaking multiple televisions
  • staining equipment with “bodily fluids”
  • decorating the station with drawings of a “racial and sexual nature”

Of the nine firefighters initially suspended, two chose to retire and two others were terminated because they were probationary firefighters. One of those probationary firefighters, a decorated Milwaukee police officer who opted to become a firefighter, is now asking the fire chief to reconsider his decision. Nathan Fager describes himself as a witness as opposed to a participant in the vandalization of Station 32, and claims that he is being made a "scapegoat."

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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