Detroit Firefighters Sue to Block Bodily Fluid Clean Up Policy

Detroit Firefighters Association IAFF Local 344 has filed suit against the city in an effort to block implementation of a policy requiring firefighters to wash down blood and bodily fluids at accident and medical scenes.

The lawsuit, which reportedly was filed last Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to block implementation of the “Bodily Fluid Aftermath Cleanup” policy until an unfair labor practice complaint can be heard.

Firefighter concerns about the policy have been swirling for several weeks. A copy of the complaint was not available, but The Detroit News is reporting that it cited health concerns associated with blood-borne pathogens as posing a imminent risk of harm to personnel and the public. The News quoted Union President Mike Nevin as saying:

  • “They’ve had a few of these runs where they are just blasting blood everywhere. I hope they don’t get any in their eyes and mouth.”
  • “This is a completely different line of work than we’re used to.”
  • “You want to add another layer of cleanup”
  • “That’s completely different than our job description.”

The News quoted Fire Chief Robert Distelrath as saying:

  • “We’re evolving to a modern fire department and we’re developing policies, getting them in writing, it’s a process.”
  • “You can’t have every action that’s taken written down. When there was a request for clarification from the field, we felt it was right to issue a specific policy.”

More from The Detroit News

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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