NBC 12 news reports the Richmond Fire Department is being investigated by state occupational safety agents. Firefighters claim to have been harmed by asbestos and other hazardous materials during a recent renovation. The firefighters have since been moved out of Fire Station 22 off of Broad Rock Boulevard.
Fire Station 22 was under construction for nearly a month while construction workers renovated the roof. The construction workers wore protective hazmat suits while the firefighters endured 24-hour shifts with zero protection. The firefighters complained of burning eyes, itchy throats, and a dust haze throughout the station.
Firefighting is known as a dangerous profession, but this risk is one that could have easily been prevented. Keith Andes of the Richmond Firefighter’s Association says “Somebody put a possible death sentence on these men and women by not taking precautions as they should. The dust and debris could have been ingested. This could have been inhaled.” The firefighters who work at Fire Station 22 not only had to deal with the daily risks of their jobs, but also a serious and avoidable health hazard.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act reflects the specific risks firefighters and other emergency responders face. Firefighters who are injured while fighting a fire, maintaining equipment, performing office duties, training to stay in shape, or training to fight fires may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Additionally, Virginia workers’ compensation law for firefighters covers heart conditions, lung conditions, and cancer. Not only that, the law presumes that those conditions are caused by the firefighter’s employment. Often referred to as the heart-lung presumption, this law makes it easier for firefighters to obtain the benefits they deserve.