Letter From The Directors ...
By Brendan O’Leary, Director

Section 35.2 of the current MOU states, there is hereby created an SFFD Joint Health and Safety Committee consisting of six (6) members, three appointed by the Chief of Department and three (3) appointed by the President of the Union. The Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of reviewing topics pertinent to the Fire Department, including but not limited to: (1) AIDS in the workplace; (2) Diesel emissions exposure in fire stations; (3) Asbestos exposure and removal; (4) Hearing loss and hearing protection. The Health and Safety Committee shall make recommendations to the Chief of the Department and to the Union and through the Chief of Department to the Fire Commission for the correction of hazardous conditions or unsafe work methods.


The committee convened a meeting at Local 798’s office. In attendance and representing the Administration were Assistant Deputy Chief Tom Siragusa (Director of Training), Dr. Peter Rill (Department Physician) and Firefighter/Paramedic Rhab Baughn (Department Compliance Officer). Representatives appointed and attending on behalf of Local 798 were Lt. Mike Walsh (Station 44), Firefighter Steve Gonzales (Station 6) and Lt. Brendan O’Leary (BFP). Attending as guests of the committee were Local 798 President John Hanley and Colleen Bales (R.N. Physician’s Office). With the assistance of information provided by Colleen Bales, the following minutes of the meeting were prepared:


Members of the committee voiced concerns over reported staph infections among public safety workers. It was agreed by all members present that the General Order concerning infection control measures should be updated and reissued for all members to review. During the course of the meeting an email was received from the Chief’s Office, which stated the following:

Emergency Rooms throughout the country are seeing a rapid increase in the number of patients that are presenting a condition known as methcillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) infection. MRSA is a new strain of a staph infection. Staph aureus is a bacteria that commonly infects skin and has been present in the community for many years. Recently the new strains of this bacteria have developed resistance to commonly utilized antibiotics.

In consultation with Department Physician, Ira Lubell, all personnel are reminded that the ideal method of prevention of this infection is utilization of standard precautions and frequent hand washing. The bacteria is present everywhere. If an open cut or wound is present, it should be covered with a dressing. In addition, members are reminded to wear gloves when they come into contact with any patient who may have skin exposure with weeping wounds or abscesses. It is imperative that members wash or sanitize their hands immediately after any contact; especially before touching their face or any open areas on the skin.

The infection is still treatable, but requires the use of intra-venous antibiotics, and therefore prevention by simple hand washing is far easier. Basic hygiene around the stations should also be reinforced.

Any possible MRSA infections should be reported to the Physician’s Office, 558-3446. Members requesting additional information are encouraged to contact the Physician’s Office.

Supported by the information contained in the email, the committee made recommendations that included the following. Each apparatus should be equipped with alcohol based hand sanitizers that could be mounted on the exterior of the vehicle. Each member would be encouraged to wash their hands with the sanitizer after each call and before getting back on the apparatus. Issues regarding the decontamination of the apparatus and equipment after each dispatch included aerosolized sanitizer to be available for each apparatus. Additional concerns were raised as to how often ambulances are “deep cleaned” to prevent the spread of infections.

Regarding the Fire Stations the following recommendations were made; all members should be encouraged to wash their hands upon returning from any calls in a designated utility sink. The sink should be located on the ground floor. This sink would not include any of the kitchen sinks. The recommendation was also made that soap dispensers be provided in the bathrooms and showers as well as the designated utility sink.


ADC Siragusa reported that during a recent Battalion Based Training rotation, over 400 components of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) were removed from service because they did not meet the minimum standards. A purchase order has been initiated to replace that equipment. ADC Siragusa stressed and the committee members agreed that individuals and officers need to take a more active roll regarding the inspection and examination of PPE. Individuals are responsible for examining their own PPE with Officers actually inspecting at the start of each watch. Battalion Chiefs also share in this responsibility by performing an examination during the monthly BC’s inspection. Members of the committee requested that a more streamlined approach be examined for the timely replacement of damaged PPE. Recommendations were made that the Battalion Chief’s carry a supply of extra hoods and extra gloves to be made available at incidents.

General Order 00 A-31 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), established guidelines for the cleaning of turnout clothing. A discussion ensued regarding the reluctance by some members to surrender their turnout clothing for commercial cleaning (bagging of clothing and delivery to the Clothing Depot) due to the length of time involved. ADC Siragusa suggested that some type of delivery schedule might be coordinated through the Battalion Chiefs at the daily Division meetings.


A discussion was held regarding issues associated with working conditions at the fire stations including but not limited to: the status of building maintenance and repair involving diesel exhaust extractors, leaking roofs, boilers and light fixtures.

Suggestions were made that shower curtains be replaced with shower doors to reduce the probability of mold and mildew development.

Concerns were raised concerning the possible rodent infestation in firehouses. Some expressed that the problem could be alleviated by more frequently scheduled garbage pick-ups and by moving garbage containers to outdoor locations. Some firehouses might not have adequate garbage container capacity, so members are forced to place garbage outside of cans or to place garbage in the recycle containers. ADC Siragusa suggested that the needs of each firehouse vary. A survey might be required to evaluate the proper sized containers and pick-up frequency.

A discussion also ensued regarding a proposal to place informational kiosks in the firehouses. Concerns were raised regarding the security of stations when SFFD units were called from quarters for service.


The discussion addressed issues regarding proper notification in the event that an engine is unable to draft or that an aerial ladder is inoperable. The Battalion Chief and Division Chief must be made aware of these deficiencies as well as the Bureau of Equipment. The issue of biodiesel was discussed. More information needs to be provided regarding the status of the program and also the potential health effects that might be associated with that fuel type.


The next meeting of the Health and Safety Committee is scheduled for 10 A.M. on April 4, 2007 at the Division of Training. Any member of the department that wishes to have an issue addressed or is aware of a topic that might be of interest to the committee should bring that item to the attention of any member of the committee.


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