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Thread: Beards, training, and my liability as a training officer

  1. #21
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    In a lot of ways , this is just a sympton of a bigger problem. Leadership , if the "chief" is willing to bend the rules on this , what else? Not worth sticking your neck out because some one wont shave theirs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    In a lot of ways , this is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Leadership , if the "chief" is willing to bend the rules on this , what else? Not worth sticking your neck out because some one wont shave theirs.
    From my brief skimming: This.

    Most don't debate that beards + SCBA don't mix and the codes/guidelines/laws reflect that.
    The problem in this case appears to be that the chiefs are not enforcing it, and leaving the Training Officer in a situation where they may be liable.

    I only see three options:
    1) Fix the beard issue.. get the chief to enforce the rules
    2) Fix the liability issue. Get enough documented paperwork to cover your *****.
    3) Fix your involvement. Stop being training officer (or involved with the depts at all).

    #1 is the best choice. #2 doesn't fix the problem but simply tries to protect you from it. I don't even know if that's completely possible. If you really want to continue to be the TO, but the chief refuses to have your back then the only thing you can do is get as much documentation and certified letters as possible to protect you from any future liability.
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    I do want to continue as training officer. BUT, I see no way to protect myself from litigation brought on by training people with beards to use SCBA. I am a tech college fre service instructor, we strictly enforce the no facial hair inbetween the mask and the skin. I know the standards and I know the Wisconsin Administrative code, so it seems to me I have no defense for teaching thse with a beard to use an SCBA.
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    I have a HUGE favor to ask. Can someone please post the relevant NFPA Standard that covers this? If you could give me the Standard number and then quote the paragraph or section that states this I would be appreciative.

    I meant to get it yesterday at work but got busy and forgot.

    Thanks!
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    NFPA 1500 Section 7.11 Fit Testing
    7.11.7
    Nothing shall be allowed to enter or pass through the area where the respiratory protection facepiece is designed to seal with the face, regardless of the specific fitting test measurement that can be obtained.
    7.11.8*
    Members who have a beard or facial hair at any point where the facepiece is designed to seal with the
    face or whose hair could interfere with the operation of the unit shall not be permitted to use respiratory protection at emergency incidents or in hazardous or potentially hazardous atmospheres.
    7.11.8.1
    These restrictions shall apply regardless of the specific fitting test measurement that can be obtained
    under test conditions

  6. #26
    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RRTX View Post
    NFPA 1500 Section 7.11 Fit Testing
    I have to admit your post made me chuckle. You have been a member since 2011 and this topic and my plea for help caused you to make your first post. Golly!! I feel so special!!

    Thanks for the help, I do appreciate it.

    Welcome aboard and now since you are no longer a posting virgin you should join in.
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  7. #27
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    Since you were curious why I liked his post, it ties right into this:

    7.11.8*
    Members who have a beard or facial hair at any point where the facepiece is designed to seal with the face or whose hair could interfere with the operation of the unit shall not be permitted to use respiratory protection at emergency incidents or in hazardous or potentially hazardous atmospheres.
    You're the training officer, therefore you should teach what the rules are for real incidents. However, if you aren't working in IDLH or potentially IDLH (for example, putting wax paper in a facepiece and having trainees crawl around in a perfectly clear atmosphere), then there's no liability for you to be concerned with. If the chief allows those same people to have a beard at an incident, that's on him, as ultimately everything falls on him. Now if you're conducting live burns or something that a beard might allow contaminants in, then you simply pull out the rules and say "no". I think RFD was simply pointing out that same concept.
    Based on everything you've posted though, you already feel pretty strongly that no one with facial hair can ever wear an SCBA facepiece, it seems you already made up your mind and should probably resign if you want be completely clear of any liability.
    Last edited by 53fireman; 03-18-2013 at 05:31 PM.

  8. #28
    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 53fireman View Post
    Since you were curious why I liked his post, it ties right into this:



    You're the training officer, therefore you should teach what the rules are for real incidents. However, if you aren't working in IDLH or potentially IDLH (for example, putting wax paper in a facepiece and having trainees crawl around in a perfectly clear atmosphere), then there's no liability for you to be concerned with. If the chief allows those same people to have a beard at an incident, that's on him, as ultimately everything falls on him. Now if you're conducting live burns or something that a beard might allow contaminants in, then you simply pull out the rules and say "no". I think RFD was simply pointing out that same concept.

    Ever hear the line "You practice like you play?" IF I were to train people in NON-IDLH environments or non-live fire trainings, how to use an SCBA, even if they have facial hair that is inbetween the mask and the skin, it is tantamount to approval to use an SCBA while operating at real world incidents. Why you and RFD can't see that is beyond me. Further why waste my time training guys to use SCBA when the standards clearly say they CAN'T?


    Based on everything you've posted though, you already feel pretty strongly that no one with facial hair can ever wear an SCBA facepiece, it seems you already made up your mind and should probably resign if you want be completely clear of any liability.

    Look, here's an idea for you...It has NOTHING to do with how strongly I feel about anything, it is clearly an OSHA violation, it is clearly an NFPA violation, it is clearly a Wisconsin Administrative code violation. By the way, the NFPA Standards that apply have been adopted by Wisconsin Administrative Code so they have the weight of law in Wisconsin supporting those standards.

    Frankly, both your position, and RFDs, make me believe that either you both have beards or are members of departments that turn a blind eye to those that have beards to keep the numbers up. After all we can't enforce rules on volunteers now can we? They might quit and then what? I'll tell you what, no more guys that think they are special and don't have to follow the standards set down by those agencies that regulate SCBA usage.
    53fireman, it is funny, I don't know you or rfd from adam and yet you are the only 2 telling me I am wrong and that if I want to enforce the rules I should quit. The people I have known for years here, and respect, understand where I am coming from and are supportive of my efforts. You seem oblivious to the liability aspect of this and maybe you need to do some reading and research before you speak next time. How about starting with NFPA 1500 Chapter 7, especially 7.11.8, and then look at OSHA 29CFR1910.134, especially section (e), paragraph 5, sentence (i), and if you are really bored look up Wisconsin SPS330, especially subchapter 8, part sps330.12 self contained breathing apparatus, paragraph (2), sentence (d). After you read those come back and defend your ludicrous position and further explain the benefit of training people in a skill that by standards they simply can't use. Seems pointless, futile, and a dangerous waste of training time and resources.

    Believing something when clearly the facts prove you wrong isn't cool, or strong, or awesome, or any other word you can think of, it is stupid and dangerous and costly.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 03-18-2013 at 06:19 PM.
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  9. #29
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    I've been waiting for someone else to bring up another point, but since no one has, I will now.....

    -Someone....Anyone.....Show me a scan of ANY scba manufacturer's written operating directions/manual/instructions that do not contain any warnings about facial hair or do not have specific wording stating that there shall be no facial hair to interfere with facepiece seals?

    Go ahead. Somone. Anyone. Scott.....MSA.....Interspiro.. ..Draeger.......ISI........Any one.....anyone......Bueller??? Bueller?? Bueller????



    (hint: it aint gonna happen!!!)

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    Bro, your first post asked whether or not you were overreacting to what you perceive. After reading your few rants, you obviously were either A. just looking for support or B. looking for an argument. Based on your replies after your original "question", you sure seem hell bent that you're doing what's right, and therefore, if that's what you think, you don't need any support. I was just simply stating that plain "training" and wearing an SCBA in an IDLH environment are 2 different things.

    So if you have some 16 year old kid in your department that has a goatee or whatever is cool at the school he goes to, you're not going to allow him to wear a facepiece to learn how it works for 2 years til he can actually participate in real fire training or real hazardous environments?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 53fireman View Post
    Bro, your first post asked whether or not you were overreacting to what you perceive. After reading your few rants, you obviously were either A. just looking for support or B. looking for an argument. Based on your replies after your original "question", you sure seem hell bent that you're doing what's right, and therefore, if that's what you think, you don't need any support. I was just simply stating that plain "training" and wearing an SCBA in an IDLH environment are 2 different things.

    So if you have some 16 year old kid in your department that has a goatee or whatever is cool at the school he goes to, you're not going to allow him to wear a facepiece to learn how it works for 2 years til he can actually participate in real fire training or real hazardous environments?
    On the kid with the goatee - yep , I would be a hard @ss, jerk, @sshole (insert your favorite) and not let him pack up. Hopefully in two years he would have grown up enough to realize that there are things more important than "being cool in school"
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    Fyredup- Why on earth did you come on here to ask for help with this issue. Obviously you have your mind made up on the issue and clearly are not seeking "help" on this issue as you said in your first post.
    Are you trying to ralley the so called wagons to gain confidence on your position before you meet with the chief? Or are you just trying to stroke you look at me big bad internet ego?

    I was merely trying to offer you some middle ground between the two sides of the issue. The chief obviously has no problems with the current policy and you do. I never once interjected my personal opinon on the matter or my departments position. I personally think that if you go into the chief's office and say if we do not change this policy I quit as training officer. You are going to look like an egotistical *****. At that point you are no longer questioning the policy you are bucking the chief. I know my chief would tell you to quit we do not need you with that kind of attitude.

    Now for my personal opinon on the matter. I do not think that anyone with a beard and the such should wear SCBA. I fully understand that the OSHA and NFPA standards. Guess what oddly enough my department feels the same way. I can not even see a reason as to why a chief that knows the standards would not follow suit. However on a professional side i think you are going about it the wrong way. I fully agree that a change needs to occur in your department for the members safety but, saying if you do not change this i quit is childish and unprofessional.

    As for your reply that it is not my job to prepare a replacement for my position as training officer in the department. HOGWASH, IT IS YOU JOB AS A LEADER TO PREPARE YOUR REPLACEMENT! The fire service is built on the passing of information and training by SR. members. Without that you are not being a leader in the department. Your department was here before you and will be there after you are gone. It is your JOB as an officer to prepare the next generation of officers in your deparment.

    Just so you know I am a proud member of the IAFF for the past ten years. I work for a busy urban department and ride a fire truck everyday as my career. Yes I follow standards even the ones that i do not agree with and am by no means a (how did you put it) member of the volly beard club. In fact I have shaved everyday both because of the SCBA standards as well as my wife doesnt like a non shaven face against hers.

    Have a good day

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    Fyred Up I think you are absolutely in the right and applaud your conviction to do things the right way.

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by 53fireman View Post
    Bro, your first post asked whether or not you were overreacting to what you perceive. After reading your few rants, you obviously were either A. just looking for support or B. looking for an argument. Based on your replies after your original "question", you sure seem hell bent that you're doing what's right, and therefore, if that's what you think, you don't need any support. I was just simply stating that plain "training" and wearing an SCBA in an IDLH environment are 2 different things.

    Actually, if I had received a rational, well thought out reason for why my opinion was wrong I would have considered it. But since I didn't I see no reason to chnage my mind.

    Further, I 100% stand by my earlier ascertation that if you train people to do something the standards say they shouldn't that they will want to do it for real when the SHTF. Training them gives implied permission that it is okay. Sorry I don't work that way. If they shouldn't do it they don't need to be trained to do it.

    You seem to want to argue with me using baseless arguments that have no merit, no support from the standards, and virtually no support here. I don't care what you do at your fire department, you can have beards to your knees if you wish. I prefer to follow the standards and keep the firefighters I train as safe as possible.


    So if you have some 16 year old kid in your department that has a goatee or whatever is cool at the school he goes to, you're not going to allow him to wear a facepiece to learn how it works for 2 years til he can actually participate in real fire training or real hazardous environments?

    That's right, I won't. It is high time the youth of today learn that they don't make the rules, or get granted exceptions to the rules just because they want them. Facial hair that comes between the skin and the seal of the mask does not meet the standards, whether you have it because you want to look cool at 16 or it is "who you are" at 20 or 30 or 40 something.
    I realize it is a foreign concept to many today but the rules are the rules and standards are put in place to protect our safety.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 03-19-2013 at 12:27 AM.
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    I fully understand your concern with liability. Our chief says the buck stops with him and I trust him. However in this day and age a even pretty dumb lawyer could fairly quickly trace an accident or fatality to the TO if SCBA standards were not being followed. Wether or not the Chief could or would protect you as TO is a pretty big risk to take. I would hope the Chief could be brought around to your way of thinking with a lecture about liability. If not what option do you have? Pray that someone does not have an accident? If something does, it is probably your A@@.

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    Fyred and I dont always agree on everything, that's known by everyone who comes in here on a regular basis. But I dont see him as coming in here "thumping his chest." He is coming in here confident in his analysis of the situation and just looking for confirmation of his analysis from a group of his peers- you know, what we all do from time to time??? Yes the rules are black and white. Yes the OSHA Laws are black and white. However he has a supervisor that is over him in his unified chain of command that has been more than relaxed regarding the black and white; therefore he wants affirmation that his determined course of action would be acceptable to others if they were placed in the same situation.

    By the way, building and fire codes are black and white also, however there is an online forum where us Code Guys go occasionally to voice "what if's" or "WWYD's"............It's called networking. It's part of what makes you a professional in your chosen vocation.

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    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    Fyredup- Why on earth did you come on here to ask for help with this issue. Obviously you have your mind made up on the issue and clearly are not seeking "help" on this issue as you said in your first post. Are you trying to ralley the so called wagons to gain confidence on your position before you meet with the chief? Or are you just trying to stroke you look at me big bad internet ego?

    Actually, I was pretty clear on my position. I was going to the chief to see if I could get him to comply with the standards. If he wouldn't, then I would be done. There are people here I know, respect, and trust. If they had told me I was way off on this I wouldn't have made an issue of it and just quietly resigned as training officer. But since the overwhelming majority supported my opinion I went ahead and talked to Chief 1,2 and 3, as well as the training officer tonight after drill.

    Dude, you don't know me from Adam so jam your internet psycho babble.


    I was merely trying to offer you some middle ground between the two sides of the issue. The chief obviously has no problems with the current policy and you do. I never once interjected my personal opinon on the matter or my departments position. I personally think that if you go into the chief's office and say if we do not change this policy I quit as training officer. You are going to look like an egotistical *****. At that point you are no longer questioning the you are bucking the chief. I know my chief would tell you to quit we do not need you with that kind of attitude.

    You offered no middle ground, you offered an idiotic idea to train people, in direct vilation of OSHA, NFPA, and my own State's Administrative Code. WHY? Why train them in a skill that it is essentially ILLEGAL for them to use? Why give them the false impression that they can do it when in reality you can't let them?

    I didn't go into the meeting with the "if you don't do what I want I'll quit approach." I actually presented facts, explained the liability, and said that violating standards and the administrative code opened me up for personal liability because with my 36 years as a firefighter and 33 years as an instructor there is no way that I could plead ignorance to the standard. I had copies of NFPA 1500 related standards, I had a copy of OSHA 29 CRR 1910.134, and a copy of SPS330. I laid it all out for them and explained THEIR personal liability.


    Now for my personal opinon on the matter. I do not think that anyone with a beard and the such should wear SCBA. I fully understand that the OSHA and NFPA standards. Guess what oddly enough my department feels the same way. I can not even see a reason as to why a chief that knows the standards would not follow suit. However on a professional side i think you are going about it the wrong way. I fully agree that a change needs to occur in your department for the members safety but, saying if you do not change this i quit is childish and unprofessional.

    Frankly, your opinion of what I am doing is meaningless. I handled it VERY professionally, with facts, proof, and logic. It's funny how you have played this little scenario out in your head, too bad you couldn't possibly be more wrong about how I handled it and how it played out.

    As for your reply that it is not my job to prepare a replacement for my position as training officer in the department. HOGWASH, IT IS YOU JOB AS A LEADER TO PREPARE YOUR REPLACEMENT! The fire service is built on the passing of information and training by SR. members. Without that you are not being a leader in the department. Your department was here before you and will be there after you are gone. It is your JOB as an officer to prepare the next generation of officers in your deparment.

    Yeah, whatever. I have been training officer for less than a year and I have used multiple officers and firefighters as assistants.

    Please don't presume to preach to me about preparing the next generation of fire officers. As a former chief of my original volly FD I mentored and prepared people to be lieutenants and prepped my replacement for the chief's position.


    Just so you know I am a proud member of the IAFF for the past ten years. I work for a busy urban department and ride a fire truck everyday as my career. Yes I follow standards even the ones that i do not agree with and am by no means a (how did you put it) member of the volly beard club. In fact I have shaved everyday both because of the SCBA standards as well as my wife doesnt like a non shaven face against hers.

    Good for you.

    WHY in the Hell would you post what you did about training people in the use of an SCBA when they have facial hair? It simply does not support what you are saying here.


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  18. #38
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    Well My Friends here is how it went down.

    I asked Chiefs 1, 2, 3, and the Safety Officer to hang around after training so I could talk to them last night. I was armed with a copy of 29CFR1910.134, SPS330 Wisconsin Administrative Code, and thanks to RRTX, the pertinant section of NFPA 1500. I handed out these copies with the sections that were relevant highlighted. I read them to the group, explained my concerns and how there would be no plausible defense for me to be training these people, or for that matter them allowing them to operate on an emergency scene with SCBA with a beard or other facial hair that intered with the seal. I explained that I enjoy being training officer and that I think we have come a long ways and we have much more to learn but that I simply can't put my financial future at risk over something as blatant as this violation of all these standards and our own state Administrative Code. When I further pointed out the fact that an injury or death caused by this MAY cause a loss of benefits, lawsuits, both against the FD and the individual officers, it was apparent that I had gotten through. Most of them were 100% behind it from the start and even the chief surprised me with his 100% support of this initiative. I got quite a bit of support for the training program and the job I have been doing. Which felt really good and made me know I have been on the right track.

    I believe that what helped me here was the fact that I was fully prepared, armed with supporting documentation, and that they know when I raise an issue it is important and not me just being a pot stirrer.

    How this all ended up.

    1) I am still training officer.
    2) No one with a beard or other facial hair that interferes with the seal will be allowed to wear SCBA either in training OR at real world incidents.
    3) This will be presented at the next meeting in the same manner as I presented it to them and the policy will then take effect.

    Thanks for the support Brothers!
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  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    How this all ended up.

    1) I am still training officer.
    2) No one with a beard or other facial hair that interferes with the seal will be allowed to wear SCBA either in training OR at real world incidents.
    3) This will be presented at the next meeting in the same manner as I presented it to them and the policy will then take effect.
    Sounds like it was the best possible outcome! Good job.
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    Glad to hear things came out positively. Change in the fire service can be really hard to initiate, glad you're able to help your dept. move forward.

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