1. #1
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    Default Liability of using personal equipment

    Is there a liability to my department if I use my own gear? If so why? If the equipment meets or exceeds NFPA, where is the LIABILITY?


    Lets be safe out there.

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    If your department has picked a certain type of gear for issue, they have in essence set a standard. That standard may meet or exceed NFPA. Lets look at an example. Say hypothetically your helmet has a 3 inch neck liner and the one the department issues has a 3.5 inch neck liner. You are both in compliance with NFPA but you get burns on the neck at a fire. Since your liner was shorter but still nfpa compliant, the department is liable for letting you deviate from its own standard. That is just an example. I am not currrent on NFPA standards for bunker gear but you get the idea.

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    Keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer... here's my opinion:

    Most of the gear that any of us use, personal- or FD owned is tested by a third party organization (such as Underwriters Labratories, or Factory Mutual) to meet outside standards that are set by various organizations -- such as ANSI, OSHA, and the NFPA - to mention a few....

    That having been said -- If it meets "accepted industry standards" -- I can't see a problem with you using it.

    It may fall down to your department, in the fact that they may want uniformity-- everyone alike - same equipment for everyone, same layout of equipment on apparatus, same layout of personal equipment, etc...

    I think that this would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

    What kind of equipment are you talking about??
    Marc

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    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

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    In my dept., we cannot deviate from the gear they provide. However, they do let us buy our own boots to use as long as they are NFPA approved.

    Many of us choose to wear leather. The dept. pays about $80 toward them, or the cost of a pair of rubber boots.

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    Keeping in mind that I am a lawyer, the simple answer is yes. Anything you are allowed to use is a liability to your company. Of course, they are liable for you using their equipment too. This real issue comes in if the equipment you use is of a lesser standard than the equipment they provide. But they need to make that determination, and that is why most depts. say "this is what we have" regarding equipment, they have determined that to be good and don't want to look at other options.
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

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    There may be a number of issues here...

    The department may require standardisation of gear for the sake of uniformity; particularly if it is an obvious part of the firefighting ensemble (one guy with a Cairns Newyorker when everyone else is wearing Bullards might look a bit funny); My fire service is pretty strict...we're not allowed to wear any non approved gear.

    All the gear we wear is tested and certified by our fire service, in accordance with the firefighting conditions we are likely to face and the firefighting equipment we use. It may be that while a certain piece of gear exceeds the rating of what we currently have, it could be deemed to retain too much thermal heat for the sort of fire conditions it is likely to be exposed to or when used in conjunction with another piece of gear, that piece of gear could become degraded.

    Further, you could receive greater protection, so you can advance that little bit further into a fire and stay that little bit longer...but your buddy can't. So when things go pear shape, you're okay, he's not. Then there's the matter of training. And of knowing what performance standards are going to be consistent with what gear. And then there's the question that if two guys were in the same flashover and one guy with old gear got burnt and the guy with the new gear didn't, someone would come up with a case against a possibly cash strapped department for not getting the best gear....And so the arguments keep on coming!

    Mind you, I think this job is the toughest job on earth at the best of times and no cost should be spared for people who routinely put their life on the line, no matter what the odds, in the hope of making a difference to someone elses.

    Take care of one another out there and lets help each other keep safe.

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    Basically if it meets the NFPA, OSHA, etc. standards, is OK'd by the Chief and Safety Officer, and works for you, then I don't see the harm in it. As a woman, I have a hard time fitting the guys gear to my body. It is too long, too big, and just not safe for me to wear. They had to order gear for me but I had to wait a year until we had the funds to buy it (temporarily I got gear from another station that fit me but was older gear). One option was for me to buy my own..I chose to wait. I really didn't see the need to buy my own gear. But yes I feel there should be some standards on what you can buy and all that. If the department requires a 3.5 inch long neck shield off the helmet then that is what you should be required to purchase. Many of our members bought their own leather boots and helmets and were approved prior to buying them. The department has no problem with this. If the equipment fails then it is a manufacturers issue and not a fire department issue. Although I am sure the fire department insurance would cover the costs until all the issues were resolved.
    Never forget those who went before and sacrified to make us better and stronger as a fire service and a nation. 09-11-01 forever etched in time and our memories. God Speed Boys!

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    As with many things, there probably isn't a right or wrong answer, but simply a decision.

    A department that says use only our provided gear has limited it's unknown risk -- they're still liable if their issued gear fails to protect, but they don't have to worry about if they're liable if somebody's personnel gear fails to protect.

    In certain circumstances, such as replacing gear after a haz-mat exposure, it's also simpler. They write up a bill for xx standard issue coats, xx standard issue boots, etc. They're not in a position of having to try and get Joe to produce a receipt for his leather New Yorker, Matt a receipt for his leather boots, etc.

    It's not that I agree with such policies, they've just decided to take a simpler path.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Ok try this one on for size. Fire dept A responds to a vehicle crash w/victim pinned underneath, the engine crew borrows several floor jacks from bystanders and frees the pt. This is widely covered by the local newspaper. The personel from sta x, that responded, request a floor jack for their engine, after several attempts w/o result, they purchase their own. It is successfully used on several other calls, including a trauma code that survives. Then dept A, decides personal equipment is a liability problem and sends out a dept order removing all equipment including the floor jack, which is not replaced by anything. Any comments?.......

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    In my department nothing is allowed to be used that wasnt issued by the department, the reason being that the insurance policy states that only equipment and PPE purchased with municipal money and from a municipal purchase order is covered under the policy, or so they tell me
    9/11/01 forever in our hearts

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    I guess helmets, boots, gloves and hoods are the main articles that are purchased by individuals. What I am attemping to determine is: replacement of the equipment, what if someone gets injured. I agree that there is a liability no matter who's equipment is used. Is there an extra liability to the department if I get hit on the head when the ceiling falls and I get hurt. This in mind I have my own helmet that is equal or better then what my department issues. Also, would I still be covered under workers comp? Thanks for your input.

    Be safe out there.

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    We can use alternate equivalent items ie (Sam Houston vs Cairns 1000 that is issued) Its mostly limited to leather helmets, some leather boots (department issues them now) and rescue harnesses.

    We register the equipment with the Captain in charge of equipment who inspects it and approves it for use. If its lost or damaged the Department pays no more than they would if it were department issued. So if you lose your leather you get about 200 bucks for it.

    When we initiated this policy the Department solicitor saw no liability issues as long as the equipment was equivalent or greater and the member signed a release that the Department was not responsible for it.

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    I am glad you brought this subject up. This is a question that has been asked many times in our department, with no clear answer given. We have an officer who purchases his own gear any wears it always. This to me is bad. Very bad. Without a clear answer from the powers that be, he should not be doing this. Lead by example. Could you please email with your findings, I would like to pass this on to our department. Oh by the way--Gotcha.
    K.A. Dempsey
    fire69dawg@yahoo.com
    "If you want to make God laugh, tell him what you are doing tomorrow"

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    Last edited by fireflyer; 07-01-2003 at 02:34 AM.

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