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San Francisco Fire Department appealing Cal OSHA fines

Most stories discussing serious work injuries seem to inevitably involve private sector employers who have failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their employees and who are now facing potential violations from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). However, it's important to remember that private sector employers are not the only ones who may be issued Cal/OSHA violations. Public sector employers may also be cited by the state agency.

To illustrate, consider a recent case out of the Bay Area involving the San Francisco Fire Department and a tragic accident that resulted in the death of two firefighters.

Back on the morning of June 2, 2011, firefighters with Engine 26 of the San Francisco Fire Department responded to a call of a house fire in a surrounding neighborhood.

Upon arriving at the scene, two firefighters -- Lt. Vincent P. and Anthony V. -- entered the front door of the burning multi-level home, reporting to fire crew members stationed outside that the fire appeared to be relatively small in size.

However, as the two men went to the lower levels of the home, the fire suddenly grew, leading to their tragic demise.

In the aftermath of this unfortunate incident, an investigation was launched by Cal/OSHA to determine if any violations took place.

Upon completing the investigation, the agency announced earlier this month that it was issuing the San Francisco Fire Department four citations -- three of which were labeled as "serious" -- totaling $21,000.

Some of the alleged violations included:

  • Fire crew members stationed outside the home failed to maintain contact with both Lt. Vincent P. and Anthony V.
  • A battalion chief entered the home and neglected to maintain contact with both Lt. Vincent P. and Anthony V.
  • The fire department failed to assign at least two firefighters stationed outside the home with rescue/assistance duties

"It would have really created an environment where all involved would have known exactly where the hazards were, what was going on at any given time, and it could have resulted in a different response," said Dean Fryer, a Cal/OSHA spokesperson.

The San Francisco Fire Department has already indicated that it will appeal/contest the Cal/OSHA citations, while the firefighter's union claims there is evidence showing that none of the alleged violations occurred.

"They have the documentation of the radio transcripts, with the times of each radio transmission was made," said Tom O'Connor of the San Francisco Firefighter's Union. "You have video footage from neighbors with time stamps on the bottom, so you can track the radio transmissions with growing fire."

Stay tuned for further developments on this story from our workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.


ABC -7, "Cal OSHA fines SFFD over deadly June response" Dec. 3, 2011

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