Firefighters Die Trapped in Burning Building
A fire on March 26, 2014 near D & J Ironworks in Malden caused the deaths of two Boston firefighters, Michael R. Kennedy, 33, and Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh, Jr., 43. The firefighters died trapped in the basement of 298 Beacon St. They had been called to respond to what appeared to be a small residential fire, which high winds quickly turned into an inferno. Welding sparks had flown from D & J Ironworks onto wood siding at a building nearby. Conditions became so hot and dangerous that their fellow firefighters were unable to enter the burning building and get them out to safety. Their co-workers could only hear Kennedy and Walsh on the fire fighters’ radio saying they had no water, it was getting hot, and pleading to be rescued, but they could not enter to help them, and the two men died. Fire department observers believe the fire’s heat was so intense that the firefighters’ hoses burned through, leaving them with no water to fight the fire that engulfed them.
D&J Ironworks Fined for Violations That OSHA Says Caused Fire
For the violations that led to the fire, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $58,000, although the company disputed OSHA’s findings. OSHA decided to investigate after learning that employees at the job site played a role in the fire. D & J was issued a number of fines between $5,000 and $7,000 for each violation.
On Sept. 12, 2014, OSHA issued its findings that D & J committed 10 violations of federal occupational safety standards, resulting in the deaths of the firefighters, including that it had:
■ Failed to provide any training to its employees, in either general safety or fire safety;
■ Provided no fire protection and prevention program, and this led directly to the fire;
■ Failed to move the railing the workers were cutting and welding to a fire-safe location; and
■ Failed to have someone at the location assigned as a fire watcher, capable of preventing and putting out fires.
OSHA Accuses Company of Failing to Protect Its Employees, Further Investigations Pending
According to OSHA, the company also neglected to provide its own employees with adequate protections against respiratory and chemical hazards associated with welding, cutting, drilling, and painting. The company also failed to evaluate its employees’ medical fitness to wear respirators, train them how to clean, store, and maintain respirators, evaluate respiratory hazards for workers, inform employees of chemical hazards associated with welding and how to mitigate them, or maintain safety data sheets on hazardous chemicals.
Boston fire officials are conducting an internal review of what happened that day, looking at policies and procedures, and reviewing such factors as weather and radio communications.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which has investigated other firefighter deaths in Boston, is also conducting a review.
Firefighter’s Mother Starts Foundation to Promote Safety
Kathy Crosby-Bell announced the launch of the Last Call Foundation in honor of her son, Michael R. Kennedy, who was killed along with Lieutenant Edward Walsh Jr. in the fire at D & J Ironworks. The Last Call Foundation will grant $75,000 to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop a fireproof but lightweight attack hose. David Cyganski, interim dean of engineering at WPI, said that fire hoses are currently made of a canvaslike material that is not fireproof. He said that previously available fireproof hose materials were too heavy to be practical. However, there are new lightweight fireproof materials available, which could be used to fabricate fire hoses.
If you have become ill or been injured at work, for more information about the workers’ compensation process, contact a Boston workers’ compensation attorney from Pulgini & Norton to schedule a free consultation to find out more about what our lawyers can accomplish for you. Contact us with a brief description of your situation, or reach us by phone at our Downtown Boston, Hyde Park, or Braintree, Massachusetts office locations.
Pain Management and Workers’ Compensation, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, April 23, 2014
The Top Five Most Expensive Workers’ Compensation Claims, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, March 26, 2014