Maryland Labor Department Cites Manchester Fire/EMS for Workplace Safety

June 9, 2024
An inspection by Maryland Occupational Safety and Health found that Manchester Volunteer Fire Company lacked a critical protocol.

The Carroll County Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services has been cited for violations related to the safety and health of its firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians working at the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company, according to charging documents issued by the Maryland Department of Labor on May 8.

The charging documents, which were sent to the department and to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners, describe a series of violations of the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Act and Regulations, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace.

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health conducted an investigation of the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company from Nov. 3, 2023, to April 30, 2024, which uncovered a series of violations, according to charging documents. The state agency, a part of the Division of Labor and Industry, is tasked with ensuring safety and health in the workplace.

“At this time the county believes it is fully compliant,” Michael Robinson, chief and director of the county’s Department of Fire and EMS, stated in an email Thursday. “The county takes all violations seriously and works to ensure the safety of all employees.”

Robinson also said the county has a full-time training, safety and health officer within the department to monitor and ensure compliance in all areas.

The date of the violations, on or about Nov. 8, 2023, occurred at a time when the county was transitioning into a combined paid and volunteer fire and EMS service, Robinson said.

“These issues were not under county purview until Carroll County employees started to staff volunteer-owned ‘corporate’ stations,” said Robinson, who also provided an Abatement Verification Response list that states the citations and corrections taken.

The push to create a combination paid and volunteer county fire service began in Carroll County more than a decade ago. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation allowing the county to establish the new department and in October 2020, commissioners unanimously voted to pass an ordinance creating it. The county has been building the department since then.

The county’s first violation at the Manchester station was discovered on or about Nov. 8. Charging documents state that the station did not have a written Exposure Control Plan, which details in writing a plan for reducing exposures to blood and explains what steps to take if an exposure occurs.

This was termed a “serious” violation, meaning there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.

“Employees that worked as firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians were required to respond to emergencies including, but not limited to, vehicle accidents where exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials as reasonably foreseeable,” the charging document states.

According to the county’s Abatement Verification Response list, an Exposure Control Plan has now been developed for the station.

Manchester also failed to provide consistent training on what steps are needed if exposure to blood occurs. This was also considered serious.

“Several employees had not received training since February 2022,” the document states.

In response, the county provided training July 6, 2023, and on or before December of last year.

There were also violations related to job safety and health, but they were downgraded from serious to not as serious.

The company was cited for not having a Respiratory Protection Program in place; such a program must include specific procedures for firefighters wearing respiratory protection equipment when responding to certain emergencies. A Respiratory Protection Policy has been developed by the county, according to the Abatement Verification Response.

The station also failed to develop, implement and maintain a written Hazard Communication Program, designed to ensure chemical safety within the station and around employees. The station did not have a written list of the hazardous chemicals stored at the station.

Investigators found cylinders containing “Grade D Breathing Air,” a compressed gas under pressure. This was considered to be a hazardous chemical, the charging documents states.

The OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard states that employers must ensure that cylinders used to supply breathing air to respirators have a certificate of analysis showing that the air meets certain requirements, its website states.

Robinson said the county has addressed all the issues, including a Hazard Communication Program.

“[Carroll County Department of Fire and EMS] and the County Office of Risk Management addressed all requirements with all required Maryland Occupational Safety and Health timelines, and Manchester and all county sites are now in compliance,” he said. “Additionally, the county took extra steps to review and address other areas to ensure compliance.

“Manchester posted the citations as required and had a settlement conference with the county and MOSH to ratify all outstanding issues,” he said. “Residents can be assured that the county takes all necessary precautions to protect employees’ safety.”

©2024 Baltimore Sun. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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