Following is a statement from Charleston Firefighters Association Local 61 President Roger Yow on the release of the report from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Office of Occupational Safety and Health:
“This new report is significant because it’s no longer just fire fighters who claim the Charleston Fire Department is run in an unsafe manner. Now state officials also are condemning Chief Rusty Thomas’s failed leadership, and Mayor Riley’s blind allegiance to the chief is as unsafe as it is indefensible."
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“The new report is a clarion call for change.
“State OSHA says Chief Thomas’s policies were a willful violation of the law – and imposed the maximum penalty and found the highest level of culpability."
Read the report.
“South Carolina OSHA initially allowed Chief Thomas to attempt to intimidate his own fire fighters by having them testify in front of their supervisors, but even that threatening tactic couldn’t save Chief Thomas in the end.
“South Carolina OSHA’s findings mean Chief Thomas developed and enforced his policies with conscious or voluntary disregard of the requirements of the law or with plain indifference for a safe workplace.
“State OSHA says Chief Thomas’s policies and procedures could cause the death or serious physical harm to employees, and he should have known that his standard operating procedures, including his command system, don’t provide for the safety of CFD’s fire fighters.
“State OSHA says the proper gear, training, and protocols weren’t provided to the fire fighters. Chief Thomas didn’t require them to wear breathing apparatus or wear their body protection.
“State OSHA says the city must rebuild CFD’s command system, communications, systems implementation?essentially rebuild the entire department because it’s unsafe and deficient.
“The City’s own review panel came out with two pages of immediate changes needed in the department’s policies after only six days of work. State OSHA now says that all of Chief Thomas’s policies need to be thrown out the window and CFD needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Five other fire departments were investigated and not one was found in violation of state law.
“Simply put, Chief Thomas has done things his way, hasn’t listened to others who said he needed to change, and now, finally, someone has called him on it. The real shame is that it took the deaths of nine good men for anyone to start listening to us about how poor Chief Thomas’s stewardship truly has been.”
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