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

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    Default Beards, training, and my liability as a training officer

    I find myself in a bit of a quandry regarding beards and training. I am the training officer for 2 POC FDs and as such I have firefighters on both FDs that have beards and 2 chiefs that simply won't enforce the no beards or facial hair that interferes with the seal of the mask standard. It becomes even more interesting when you look at Administrative Code in Wisconsin where it specifically spells out no facial hair with a mask. Specifically SPS330, FIRE DEPARTMENT SAFETY AND HEALTH STANDARDS, Sub-Chapter 8 Protective Clothing and Equipment, SPS 330.12, Paragraph 2, Part d:

    (d) A fire fighter may not wear a beard or facial hair that comes
    in contact with a facepiece seal if the fire fighter’s duties require
    him or her to use a self−contained breathing apparatus. If a fire
    fighter wears eyeglasses, the fire fighter shall use frames that do
    not pass through the seal area of the facepiece.
    So where am I going with this? Besides being the training officer of these 2 POC FDs I am a career firefighter and a 33 year tech college instructor. I know the NFPA Standard and I know the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code regarding facial hair and the wearing of SCBA facepieces and I have begun to wonder what MY PERSONAL liablity is if I train people with beards in drills using SCBA? It has become such a concern to me that I am considering going to both chiefs and stating that I will no longer allow anyone with a beard to participate in any drill that requires the use of SCBA. I am relatively sure that I may not be a training officer for much longer but I feel this issue is serious enough to force that kind of confrontation. I take my position as training officer very seriously and documentation of that training just as seriously. I have already implemented the "You don't physically participate you don't get on the training record rule" and that has met with some unhappy officers that like to watch but not do the actual drill.

    So help me out here, am I overreacting or am I spot on here?
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    I think you're right on the money. Unless you got some Amish or Mennonite's that have religious reasons, most people don't NEED a beard. And if you get "relieved" of your duties, I'd pass the info on to the gov. agency that the POC's operate under, they may be interested in how much it would cost them for an injury or death claim for a safety issue that wasn't enforced. Money talks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnsb View Post
    I think you're right on the money. Unless you got some Amish or Mennonite's that have religious reasons, most people don't NEED a beard. And if you get "relieved" of your duties, I'd pass the info on to the gov. agency that the POC's operate under, they may be interested in how much it would cost them for an injury or death claim for a safety issue that wasn't enforced. Money talks.
    See to me John, it is as simple as this...If you want to play summer softball you agree to the rules. So if they say no metal spikes, then it is no metal spikes. Not, screw you I am doing it anyways. Same with any other activity you can think of, you want to be a member you follow the rules. Why can't it be that way in the volly/POC FD world? Frankly, I don't care if someone wants a beard, have at it. Just admit you know the rules of the FD and stop even trying to put on an SCBA any longer.

    Going to the fire board for one, and the village board for the other just isn't my style. It would be easier for me if they don't agree with my position for me to just say "Okay then, it is time for you to find a new training officer because I am unwilling to assume the liabiity for the violation of this standard." Then I can go back to riding backwards and just fighting fire.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 03-16-2013 at 05:35 PM.
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    Don.. stand your ground. If the Chief wants you to let train bearded firefighters on the donning and operations of SCBA, have someone with knowledge of "legalese" draw up a document stating that the Chiefs of their Departmenta will assume any and all responsibility for any injury or death as a result of his allowing firefighters with beards to wear SCBA and have it notarized.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
    Don.. stand your ground. If the Chief wants you to let train bearded firefighters on the donning and operations of SCBA, have someone with knowledge of "legalese" draw up a document stating that the Chiefs of their Departmenta will assume any and all responsibility for any injury or death as a result of his allowing firefighters with beards to wear SCBA and have it notarized.
    Chief, I intend on standing my ground. One of my biggest pet peeves is my fellow volunteers that want to be considered as good as the career guys but then want to say "You can't make me do that because I am JUST A VOLUNTEER."

    I have pointed the NFPA Standard and SPS330 State Administrative Code regarding SCBA facepiece seals and facial hair. It falls on deaf ears for the most part. So I will keep you informed on what they tell me. Should be a blast I am sure.
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    If the powers to be say OK we will allow you to ban any members who have breads from SCBA training. Does that change the operational policy? Will they then not be allowed to wear SCBA on calls? Then is the problem of untrained bearded members a greater risk then the orginal problem?

    Are you willing to meet the chiefs in the middle. Will you allow bearded members to participate in SCBA drills with the exception of Live fire or other IDLH training? I think we can all agree that the facial hair causes a seal issue and does not affect the actual operation of the SCBA.

    Is this an issue you are willing to give up being the training officer for? Have you properly trained someone to replace you in the event you are no longer the training officer? Will the department be able to continue with proper effective training with out you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    If the powers to be say OK we will allow you to ban any members who have breads from SCBA training. Does that change the operational policy? Will they then not be allowed to wear SCBA on calls? Then is the problem of untrained bearded members a greater risk then the orginal problem?

    Are you willing to meet the chiefs in the middle. Will you allow bearded members to participate in SCBA drills with the exception of Live fire or other IDLH training? I think we can all agree that the facial hair causes a seal issue and does not affect the actual operation of the SCBA.

    Let me ask you this...Did you read what the Administrative Code says for fire departments regarding SCBA usage and facial hair? Because if you did then you didn't comprehend it. The Code is VERY CLEAR that anyone with facial hair that interferes with the seal of the facepiece can't use SCBA. So basically you want me to train people how to use SCBA as long as I don't train them in live fire situations or an IDLH atmosphere so that they can use them in VIOLATION of State Adminstrative Code, against the NFPA Standards, against OSHA Standards, at real incidents. Seriously, are you F**king kidding me? Did you read what you wrote? If my concern is liability for training people with beards to use SCBA why would I be a part of allowing them to use them at real incidents?

    Frankly, I have to admit I find this part of your post ludicrous and without merit.


    Is this an issue you are willing to give up being the training officer for? YES, it is. My responsibility to protect the safety of the firefighters I train does not end because of their desire to make a fashion statement and have a beard. Why is it volunteer firefighters believe they are exempt from safety standards simply because they are a volunteer? If the chiefs wish to take on that liability that is fine, I do not wish to put my personal financial future at risk over something as obvious as this. Have you properly trained someone to replace you in the event you are no longer the training officer? Not my job. My job is to train the firefighters and when I assumed this position I expected to be at it long term. I have had assistants help me with training but I doubt if I tell them why I would be stepping down that they would want the job. I could be wrong in that but I doubt it. Will the department be able to continue with proper effective training with out you? They trained before me. You see, I don't see myself as indispensable. Some one will step up if they don't agree with what I am saying. The reason they wanted me is I have 33 years as a tech college fire instructor and 36 years fire service experience to back up what I am teaching. I have been told by officers and firefighters that I am doing a good job and that training is going well. Let's see if that has any meaning.
    Firefighting is the same whether you are a career firefighter or a volunteer/Paid on Call firefighter. The dangers are the same. The heat, the flames, the smoke, the toxic gasses, the danger of buildings collapsing, all of that is exactly the same no matter what. If volunteers want to be considered as equals to their career Brothers and Sisters then stop asking for exceptions like having a beard and wearing SCBA.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 03-16-2013 at 09:27 PM.
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    Another vote for stand your ground. You say you have spoken to the Chief- spoken word is fine and dandy, but a written letter delivered by the USPS via registered mail makes for better convincing in a courtroom, god forbid it ever came to that.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Firefighting is the same whether you are a career firefighter or a volunteer/Paid on Call firefighter. The dangers are the same. The heat, the flames, the smoke, the toxic gasses, the danger of buildings collapsing, all of that is exactly the same no matter what. If volunteers want to be considered as equals to their career Brothers and Sisters then stop asking for exceptions like having a beard and wearing SCBA.
    If you present this exact statement to your Chief, and he refutes it, then he has either been a dues paying member of the "good ol' boys club" for many years, or he got to where he is without opening a single SCBA manual....ever. Or both.

    You are 100% justified in your actions after that.
    IAFF

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    Chief Gonzo, Jonhsb, FWDbuff, and snowball,

    Thanks for the support. I knew I was right but wanted some support from my Brothers here to seal that decision for me.

    RFD21C and 53fireman,

    I don't have any idea where your heads are at with this. RFD21C your position is so completely insane that I can only assume you must be a member of the "I am only a volly you can't make me shave my beard club." As for 53fireman, what do you like about his post? That he thinks not training people in an IDLH or live fire situations because they have a beard, but allowing them to go into those types of situations in real life makes sense?
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    The rules are the rules, what some people don't understand is that if someone gets hurt/killed by SCBA failure facial hair could be a reason to deny bennifits..don't know the likelihood of an insurance company doing that but better not to push it. ALL of the live fire/ scba training from bucks county comm college requires clean shaven-ness. If you have a beard either you shave of you don't play.

    My structural burn instructor had some guys shaving with disposables before class started.

    And if someone get hurts its on you, you didn't write the codes or the rules, but for your protection.. And everyone else's you need to enforce it.
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    The tech college I teach for requires clean shaven any time SCBA is used, whether just donning and doffing drills or live fire training. we instill them with the idea that in order to use it you must be clean shaven.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    I think we can all agree that the facial hair causes a seal issue and does not affect the actual operation of the SCBA.
    Uhhhhh, as a matter of fact, no we can't!!!!!
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    I teach a Firefighter One class and I'll admit right off the bat I'm given quite a bit of latitude with how I conduct my classes. When someone shows up with facial hair which will affect mask seal he or she is sent home to resolve the issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miller337 View Post
    I teach a Firefighter One class and I'll admit right off the bat I'm given quite a bit of latitude with how I conduct my classes. When someone shows up with facial hair which will affect mask seal he or she is sent home to resolve the issue.
    That's is NOT what the standard says, it say any facial hair between the seal of the mask and the skin.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    That's is NOT what the standard says, it say any facial hair between the seal of the mask and the skin.
    Yes, that is correct. We are both on the same page.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miller337 View Post
    Yes, that is correct. We are both on the same page.
    Excellent!!
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    Some rules you can bend, but not when it comes to this type of issue. Facial hair that gets in the way of a mask seal is a deal breaker.

    I have been at written tests at Gateway where the rule was enforced. Don't meet the standard, can't test. And yes I said WRITTEN tests.
    We do not rise to the occasion. We fall back to our level of training.

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    There is a plethora of discussion on this topic. The bottom line is...FEDERAL LAW (OSHA) does not permit facial between the face and the face mask seal on respiratory protection.

    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/t125942/ (Facial Hair and OSHA)


    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/t122263/ (Trim beard please help!)


    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/sear...searchid=75979

    http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owad...able=standards


    http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owad...ONS&p_id=28553

    Facepiece seal protection.

    1910.134(g)(1)(i)
    The employer shall not permit respirators with tight-fitting facepieces to be worn by employees who have:

    1910.134(g)(1)(i)(A)
    Facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function; or
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    We don't allow beards at our training facility. We put a beard policy right in the application. If they say that they can prove to us that they can get a seal, I ask them, "what happens if your mask gets dislodged?" They can't guarantee that they will regain the seal 100% of the time. If they want to train, they train by my rules.
    Last edited by volff1170; 03-18-2013 at 12:51 AM. Reason: spelling

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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

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