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  • Religion vs. Safety

    The current issue in PA concerning the Amish volunteers being at odds with the state standard of no facial hair while using SCBA will certainly stir some emotional comments. I see it as very simple. The standard was written by OSHA to protect firefighters and anybody else who is required to work in a dangerous environment. What is next, someone with an aversion to wearing a helmet, gloves, or any other PPE. I don't think it is wise to create special rules for certain religious, cultural, gender, or any other group. We have worked very hard in the fire service to reduce line of duty injuries and deaths for many years. When I started in the early 80's the safety changes were well underway and have continued to the point we are at today. Some of the changes that have come from either governmental or NFPA guidance include, nomex hoods, full bunker gear, enclosed cabs on appratus, intergrated PASS, increased accountability of members on the fireground, and countless other things that once seen as too expensive or too cumbersome or not a part of tradition.
    The part of this issue involving dwindling volunteers in the rural areas must certainly be addressed. However, reducing the effectiveness of a critical safety item is not the answer. I applaud the PA State Fire Marshall for holding his ground. We need to continue to look for ways to make firefighting safer while maintaining our primary mission.

  • #2
    Yes, wearing the SCBA properly would violate their religious practices, but doesn't operating an engine or truck violate the same religious views?

    The Amish religion frowns upon using modern technology and electricity. How do these Amish FFs plan on pumping a fire, using a TIC, using a gas meter, using the Jaws, or any related activity without violating those same views that they claim their departments are forcing them to violate?

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    • #3
      Been Doing It For Years..........

      It is a sorry state of affairs when we have to resort to changing laws to allow some to help their neighbors. I am not Amish, and I don't live in Lancaster County Pa. either. BUT, based on information from varied sources, the Amish have a great tradition for helping others, and I have a great deal of respect for them. I support what the politicians in Lancaster County are trying to do. Over the years, my job has been made more difficult by well intentioned persons who want absolute safety no matter what. Why do we feel the need to protect people from themselves?? Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.
      Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
      In memory of
      Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
      Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

      IACOJ Budget Analyst

      I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by hwoods View Post
        Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.
        You never get an answer because the answer would "It doesnt matter" The air might not last as long but it still works. Everyone bitches about people not volunteering and now when people do they still bitch. Leave the Amish alone. If they don't worry about it, why should you? They are big boys and I'm sure they understand the risks involved.
        I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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        • #5
          Originally posted by hwoods View Post
          It is a sorry state of affairs when we have to resort to changing laws to allow some to help their neighbors. I am not Amish, and I don't live in Lancaster County Pa. either. BUT, based on information from varied sources, the Amish have a great tradition for helping others, and I have a great deal of respect for them. I support what the politicians in Lancaster County are trying to do. Over the years, my job has been made more difficult by well intentioned persons who want absolute safety no matter what. Why do we feel the need to protect people from themselves?? Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.

          One of the biggest problems with having a beard while wearing an SCBA is that it makes a 30-minute bottle more like a 10-minute one, since a lot of the positive pressure air seeps out between the hair follicles and the mask. It's like going into a fire with your purge valve opened.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by nhravlal View Post
            One of the biggest problems with having a beard while wearing an SCBA is that it makes a 30-minute bottle more like a 10-minute one, since a lot of the positive pressure air seeps out between the hair follicles and the mask. It's like going into a fire with your purge valve opened.
            So? Many don't wear their masks inside unless they really need to anyway. Whats the big deal?
            I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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            • #7
              The big deal is that it's a sacrifice of safety.

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              • #8
                ChicagoFF...

                Do tell...how many guys with beards on Chicago? I would bet ZERO...since it is clearly an OSHA violation to wear any type of respirator with facial hair that gets between the seal of the mask and your skin.


                Look...the facts are simple. NO regulatory agency will approve the wearing of SCBA with facial hair that interferes with the seal. So the emotional aspect of this is nothing more than that.

                FyredUp
                Crazy, but that's how it goes
                Millions of people living as foes
                Maybe it's not too late
                To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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                • #9
                  I think what Chicago means is WHO cares what the Amish do in Amish land. I don't think there is going to be a mass influx of non-amish people looking to become firemen in Amish Land...nor will thier be a mass influx of Amish joining the ranks of the CFD. In Kiras Joel in Orange County, NY (a satmir hasidic jew village, ultra-orthodox) thier members are not required to shave either. during my time in FDNY-EMS I worked with an orthodox jew (not of the KJ type), who didn't have to shave either, actually I worked with a number of them. I agree with what Chicago says, they are big boys, and they know what can happen. They are also members of a very closed, very small ultra-religious contigent of people that require fire protection and are willing to do it themselves. I really don't forsee them tear azzing down a hallway with a smoothbore beating the beast back into the pits of hell.
                  IACOJ Member

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                  • #10
                    If the Dept they work for is willing to insure them with the "alledgedly" increased risks of wearing facial hair with SCBA, what the heck do we care?
                    Seems like this is an inter-departmental matter.

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                    • #11
                      Except where the jurisdication may affect the rest of the FF's.

                      It's not my fight, but for arguements sake, I'm for letting them have thier way, as long as it wouldn't cost the rule-abiding depts and taxpayers in the long run.

                      Are they elegible for LODD benefits, state health insurance, workers compensation, etc. if so, follow the rules (I agree that if they are wearing SCBA to begin with, the religious angle is already tainted).

                      If they are on thier own, let them do what they wish.
                      Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

                      IACOJ

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
                        ChicagoFF...

                        Do tell...how many guys with beards on Chicago? I would bet ZERO...since it is clearly an OSHA violation to wear any type of respirator with facial hair that gets between the seal of the mask and your skin.


                        Look...the facts are simple. NO regulatory agency will approve the wearing of SCBA with facial hair that interferes with the seal. So the emotional aspect of this is nothing more than that.

                        FyredUp
                        Have you ever tried wearing your hood under your mask? You can tighten it up enough so that there is very minimal leakage. I'm sure it would be the same with a beard. If they want to protect their own and do it there own way, who cares? OSHA? Thats your only argument?

                        And McCaldwell - "Are they elegible for LODD benefits, state health insurance, workers compensation, etc. if so, follow the rules"

                        If I were you I would be more worried about the douchbags crawling into homemade props at parades and lighting themselves on fire, the rocket scientists blowing up houses, volunteer departments that require no training other than showing up for the bake sale, drunk guys wearing their pagers and FD t-shirts at the bar trying to pick up chicks and ready to respond, and any of a thousand other retarded things that have been discussed here.

                        Are a few Amish Volunteers really that bad? At least they will be sober!
                        I am a complacent liability to the fire service

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          There are a hundred different ways to many different tasks, but one thing that I have done, and seen, is learn from others. This may be good or bad. Lessons learned are a way of personal life and business. The bad ones tend to stick out in peoples mind. All OSHA/NFPA/ANSI, etc has done is take these lessons learned and enacted them into standards, laws, or reccomendations. Face it, the Fire/EMS Service is safety based. My outlook on safety is this.
                          "Safety rules are written in blood. They are written because there was a near miss, injury, or fatality.The outcome is "The Red Words of Safety".

                          The beard issue has been discussed for almost 20 years. I understand the religion factor as well. But maybe their firefighting needs to be limited to exterior defensive operations only. Let them wear a pack for exterior ffing or they don't fight fire. But we have to get over it and quit "diggin' up bones". Every year someone thinks they have the answer, but they don't. Rules are rules, wether they federal, state, local, or departmental. Follow them.
                          The only person who does not screw up, is the person who does not do anything.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kadempc View Post
                            The beard issue has been discussed for almost 20 years. I understand the religion factor as well.
                            Is this situation different than the one with the muslim gentlemen from, I think, Washington, DC? I seem to remember they had the same argument. My understanding is that DCFD relaxed their standards on beards because of this.
                            So you call this your free country
                            Tell me why it costs so much to live
                            -3dd

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by voyager9 View Post
                              Is this situation different than the one with the muslim gentlemen from, I think, Washington, DC? I seem to remember they had the same argument. My understanding is that DCFD relaxed their standards on beards because of this.
                              I believe there is currently a case of a firefighter in Philly who was a muslim when he was hired, but became "more devout" as time went on, and refused to shave. If I recall correctly, this case is still in the court system, and I believe the department has been prevented from firing him (for the time being) because he is able to get a seal with the BAs that Philly uses.

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