Fire Mechanics Deserve Protection Too

Before heading to the Califonia PEOPLE Conference in Sacramento, Calif., Council 36 made a pit stop in Oakland, Calif. Local 119 members, Gary Hodge, Luis del Cid, Andreas Jung, and Neill Niblett, attended the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation meeting to discuss the importance of AB 1400. AB 1400 will require that firefighter mechanics receive equipment that would reduce their exposure to carcinogens.

Our Local 119 members had an opportunity to share their stories and discuss the workplace changes they would like to see. Fire equipment mechanics are exposed to the same contaminants as firefighters, but they don't have access to the same protective equipment or a decontamination process. Fire equipment mechanics should have the same protections as firefighters, especially while on the scene of a fire. Luis del Cid, who is a cancer survivor, described an incident where he was fixing fire equipment about 30 yards away from an active fire scene in only a polyester shirt and pants.  

Additionally, fire equipment mechanics don't have an extensive decontamination process. They often work on equipment that has been exposed to years and years of contaminants. Gary Hodge described working on auto parts with layers and layers of soot, and how oftentimes mechanics have to try and clean the auto parts, without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), in order to work on them. Because there isn't a proper decontamination process, fire mechanics frequently bring the contaminants home with them, which means their loved ones are also exposed. 

After years and years of being exposed to hazardous materials, fire equipment mechanics are more likely to be diagnosed with diseases, such as cancer. Around 19 Local 119 members have been diagnosed with cancer in the past three years and out of those 19 members, 8 have perished. Just because fire equipment mechanics are not usually the face of the fire department, it doesn't mean their lives are any less valuable.

Our members should not have to negotiate for proper PPE, because saftey is not negotiable. AB 1400 is a giant step towards making sure our members are protected.