Neighborhoods around the world rely on fire protection services as a peace of mind asset for their community. The organization will get calls when there are fires, emergencies, or rescues to navigate life altering events. Most communities have local services that are paid for by public dollars in the form of the local fire department. However, there are many privately owned fire protection companies contracted to service the community in lieu of public workers. This post will reveal three things you need to know about privately owned fire protection companies.
Not many citizens are aware that unless there is a state run OSHA, such as California’s CAL/OSHA, the fire department is not regulated for safety and health conditions. Due to federal guidelines, only state run OSHA programs have jurisdiction for state and local government workers. Public sector workers in states under the Federal OSHA program are exempt from any OSHA enforcements and guidelines.
It is unfortunate, but some municipalities are not as safety and health conscious as their private sector counterparts. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) have long been fighting the cause to have the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 amended to include the public sector workers under the OSHA enforcement umbrella. This appeal to legislation change is due to a report that says state and local government workers reported a 70% higher injury and illness rate than private sector workers.
One such incident involved an explosion that killed two workers performing welding operations on a methane gas tank at a wastewater facility in Florida. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in an investigation of the accident recommended new workplace regulatory safety and health oversight for public employees.
Private fire protection services are classified under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) as a code 561990. This means, private fire protection companies must comply with OSHA’s regulations regardless of what state they operate. Each function of the company is subject to a regulatory inspection for quality and completeness of the 29 CFR 1910 General Industry regulations, 29 CFR 1904 Recordkeeping regulations, and in some instances the 29 CFR4.1926 Construction regulations.
Not all Public Fire Station are Trained for Specialized Services
Local fire departments are funded through the tax base of their communities. The more affluent the community the more available funds for training and services for municipal workers. In many cases, the opposite is true, whereas smaller communities with moderate to low tax bases will not adequately fund a fire department. Additionally, to conduct specialized services such as confined space rescue, fall protection rescue, and hazardous materials spill response require a great deal of skill and proficiency.
In Colorado, an electric power company hired a contractor to do some work in a permit required confined space. The contracting company had a fire in the confined space due to an explosion cause by an accumulation of flammable gases. The local fire department was called, but when they arrived couldn’t do anything to help because they were not sufficiently trained. A specialized hazmat and confined space entry rescue trained fire department team 40 miles for the job site was called to help the workers. However, the efforts were in vain and five contract workers died. If there were a private fire rescue team with specialized training on site during this work, then lives would have been saved.
Private Fire Protection Services Can Partner with Existing Public Fire Departments
Public and private organizations are always perceived as rival agencies that cannot get along, nor should they be on the same site. Many articles have been written about the dangers of privatization of public services. Moreover, private companies performing services instead of public sector workers can be perceived as greedy. This notion of greedy private fire protection companies, doesn’t see the reality of lives being saved and property being protected by caring individuals.
Currently, the private and public sector fire protection agencies work together to fight the California wildfires. This unprecedented event is creating millions of dollars in property damage and threatening whole communities. Through it all, both public and private fire protection services work tirelessly to protect people, neighborhoods, the environment, and landscape of the region.