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When Your Employer Bans Your PPE


There are all kinds of rules and policies out there about wearing your personal protective equipment. We have to wear it more than we think is necessary.  If we don’t follow the policies we usually face some sort of discipline.


There isn’t much room for argument because the administration always falls back on the old “safety first” story.  What happens when you select some personal safety equipment and the administration tells you that you can’t use it?


A Chicago Fire Department paramedic was told he could not wear a bulletproof vest outside of his uniform shirt.  There are some pretty dangerous areas in Chicago and wearing that vest sounds to me like a very good idea.


There is some danger in getting blood on ourselves, so we are required to wear gloves.  If we have even the slightest chance of being in a smoky or toxic atmosphere we are required to wear our SCBA.  It only sounds logical that if we are around some potential gunfire we should be required to wear the vest, not prohibited from wearing one. 


It seems like part of the problem with this is the age old issue of someone wearing the vest over the uniform shirt.  I never really understood all the importance of wearing the proper uniform shirt.  I have always been of the opinion that as long as something I am wearing says fire department, that is good enough.  When we respond on a structure fire we are covered in our bunker gear, so who really cares what I have on underneath?  If my house is burning or I am having a heart attack I don’t really care what the crew is wearing, I am more concerned with their ability to help me.


So back to Chicago, where they decided to enforce a ridiculous regulation; there was most likely something else behind the decision, but either way it was a bad decision to tell a paramedic he couldn’t protect himself.  When the story came out in the news it really made the fire department and city look bad.


Even stubborn fire administrators can be swayed when the mayor of a major city gets called out on such a bad decision. The mayor stepped in and got himself out of the fire by telling the fire administration to fix the problem.


The solution to the problem will cost the paramedics a few bucks.  Vests that will be worn by paramedics will need to have lettering and larking on them that distinguishes them from the police. The cost of the vests will be paid for by the paramedics. 


At least this situation was resolved in a proper manner.  Since the fire department wanted the paramedics to look different than the police, we will now have markings on the vests.  Paramedics will have to get the proper markings on their vests, but that cost will probably come from some sort of uniform allowance.


Too bad we have to deal with so many of these silly issues in the fire service.  We waste a lot of time and energy fighting over silly things, when there is much more positive uses of our time.

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