Hi all,
I have a question for those that might be able to help resolve a ongoing problem here at my dept. What I need to know is: Can a FF be forced to be on the hazmat team? It is believed by some here that this is strictly a volunteer position. Some of the members of our HIRT team have been forced on because they were low seniority. Those that volunteer to be on the team have to serve a minimum of 3 years. In the past some that were force and did not want to stay got off after 2 years. Now those who were forced and want off, 3-4 guys, are being told that they can't leave. So my question again is can a FF being forced onto a hazmat team, or is this a voluntary position? Also if you have any reference links or legal documents I would appreciate if you could post or send me an Email. Thanks again for any help.

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In my paid department we have a Level A Hazmat Response Team - in house. I guess you could say people volunteer to be on the team but the positions are paid weekly via extra incentive pay. You have to apply and be appointed to the team. There are 30 on the team of 47. All of your training, refreshers, responses are paid at your overtime rate.

Is your hazmat team a requirement of your firefighter job description? Yes or no.

If no, and the team is a seperate group, then what is the incentive to be on the team?
Stipend, step increase, or nothing? If nothing they why would anyone want to volunteer for the additional hazard exposure?

Lastly, what does your union contract say about specialty teams like Hi Angle, Hazmat, etc... if nothing then it is time to re-negotiate the verbage.

If the team is seperate and not part of your regular firefighters job description, then I would have to say NO. but dependant on management rights, if your don't have a specific job description for firefighter and one for hazmat team, then yes, management could consider everything is a requirement of the firefighter.
If it's part of a job description, it's going to be tough to argue that a member can quit the team.

If it is not part of a job description, it falls into the more nebulous area of a department order.
Does your state or your department define what is a legal order and what is not?
If the order to remain on the team is not a legal one, then it can't be enforced.

If the team members can't perform up to the team standard, that's another possibility to explore.
For example, does a member want off the team because of claustrophobia while wearing hazmat PPE?

Another option is to check the union contract, if you have a collective bargaining agreement.
If that agreement doesn't specify mandatory team membership, it's likely that it can't be enforced.
If you're not unionized or don't have a valid contract, this one won't help you.
Likewise, if team membership is a contract agreement, the members are bound by the terms of the contract.

Speaking as a hazmat team member, I don't want anyone on the team that doesn't want to be there.
It's a risk to everyone else's life and health. Speaking as a chief officer, that's a risk I don't want to take with the lives and health of the hazmat techs for whom I'm responsible.
Sorry it took so long to get back with you guys. Thank you for your responses, I will do my best to answer. First of all: No it is not a requirement of being a FF.
#2: There is no stipend, extra pay, step increase and all extra training that the member wants to get outside of the minimal training provided may or may not be payed for. Really as sad as this is, for most of the guys/gals it is to get off the box, respond to every fire/rescue call and hazmat incident the county. However only the members stationed at the rescue station are on it all the time. The others with less seniority are not and only get there occassionally. There is nothing in the contract stating the amount of time a person must serve. There is a policy stating those that volunteer to be on will serve a minimum of 3 years. Nothing about those that are forced or assigned to the team. They are claiming management rights as their reason for not wanting to let these individuals off. They served there time of 2 years without complaining and now when they want off they are being denied. If I did not mention this is a career union dept. Do you know of any references to this that I can look at.
Sound to me as if you guys need to have some better definitions in your next contract.
It may take a new contract to resolve this issue. If you can get an incentive (either a pay bonus or something like choice of assignments or paid attendence at 3rd party training, etc.) you may find that some of your hazmat members may suddenly change their mind about dropping the team.

In other words, make the hazmat assignment a plum, not scutwork, and get the terms in the next contract so they can be enforced by both labor and management.

BTW, my department offers a 2.5% pay bonus for IFSAC-certified hazmat technicians who are team members, plus the department pays for their intitial training and the mandated recurrent training.

Except in a rare case of department need, no firefighter who has not completed the 1st year evaluation period can join the team or take the hazmat technician course.
Well I can tell you right now, money is out of the question. We will be lucky to even get a pay increase on this next contract. They will begin negotiations next month. They never have paid for the HIRT team and they are not going to in the future. This issue is going to come up at the labor management meetings and next contract I am sure. Money won't be discussed unfortunately. Now you know why I am not on the team. No incentive unless you are stationed there and I don't want to be "downtown" anyway.

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