The Occupational Safety and Health Administration overturned a safety citation against masks used by the Chandler Fire Department this month after viewing the department's new policy to improve the testing process.
Chandler received the citation in early December after ADOSH discovered that four firefighters did not receive proper safety testing on a protective mask called a self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, according to ADOSH spokesman Bill Wright. Without the computerized testing, the mask's seal might not provide the wearer with adequate chemical protection in an emergency situation.
The department argued that the four firefighters who did not test their masks were never exposed to these toxic chemicals and later met with ADOSH employees to form a new policy, according to Battalion Chief Paul Nies.
"This was an issue we were already addressing," he said. "We had done a lot of what they had asked us to do by the time they came out (to the building)."
The new Chandler fire policy states that every firefighter, regardless of possible exposure to dangerous chemicals, must test their SCBA masks by April 1 of each year, he said. If a person fails to meet the new deadline, the firefighter will not report to any emergency until the test is complete.
All of the firefighters at the center of the citation tested their masks every calendar year, but a loophole allowed the process to continue more than a year from the last evaluation, he said. All SCBA masks must be tested annually, according to state and federal law.
An anonymous written complaint regarding the mask's safety was sent to ADOSH in October, according to citation documents.
Following the new policy, Nies said the department was also working closely with the information technology team to create a better computer program for tracking testing on a day-by-day basis.
"I think that will complete the circuit," he said. "Senior staff can run a report with the click of a button now."
The citation, as well as incorporating a new policy and computer program, has not drastically changed the department's overall approach to everyday safety, Nies said.
"All in all, it's a difficult process to go through," Nies said of the new policy. "The outcome is probably a win-win for everybody."
Nies could not comment on whether or not the department would face budget cutbacks in the new year similar to the current changes in the Mesa Fire Department, which saw a loss of 23 positions and nearly $7.5 million in budget cuts.
The Chandler department's budget evaluation will be available in January, Nies said.