The Chandler Fire Department did not properly test the safety masks of four firefighters on a yearly basis, which could have exposed the men to harmful chemicals, according to the Arizona Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
An investigation began in October after OSHA received an anonymous written complaint accusing the department of ignoring seal checks on firefighter safety masks, said OSHA Arizona division assistant director Bill Wright.
"The employer did not ensure employees were fit-tested prior to initial use, upon receiving a different size, style, make or model respirator, and at least annually thereafter," according to the investigation report.
All firefighters are outfitted with a self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, and according to Chandler policy, the masks must be attached to a specialized device that tests the amount of outside chemicals that may come into contact with inside air. These tests should be completed annually, according to federal and state law.
The men, Capt. Lou Carlucci, Battalion Chief Kevin Gale, firefighter Norm Miller and Capt. Jeff West, did not record any fit-testing results over a year and a half or longer, the findings show.Three of these men occasionally work on emergencies about four times a year, while the other is not allowed to perform in harm's way, according to Battalion Chief Paul Nies.
The department received a nonserious citation but will not be fined, Wright said.
Nies said the department would meet with OSHA representatives Friday to discuss a possible appeal process for the citation.
Chandler's standard operating guidelines for SCBA care and maintenance say these tests are required for anyone "expected or likely to respond to and function in areas of atmospheric contamination." Any inhaled carcinogens could result in respiratory illness or distress, the report shows.
OSHA employees spent several days in October investigating the department's headquarters, located near Arizona Avenue and Boston Street in downtown Chandler. Written interviews regarding the complaint showed that most firefighters defended the department against the allegations.
"The department does a very good job keeping us safe with training and our equipment," said 11-year firefighter David Blau.
Firefighter Anthony McPherson, with the department for two years, said his "SCBA technician is always on top of any SCBA-related things."
Any interviews with the affected firefighters were not released.
OSHA will require that the department consent to a follow-up investigation in a few months.