Posts Tagged Kovatch Mobile Equipment

Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens (more)

Excerpts from the

During 38 years as a Chicago firefighter, George Beary regularly heard the emergency sirens as he rode on the back of the firetruck. Since his retirement in 2005, Beary, the chairman of a committee of retired Chicago firefighters, said he suffers from tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Beary, former vice president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, is among about 4,400 current and former firefighters nationwide who are suing Federal Signal, an Oak Brook-based company that makes sirens, claiming it didn’t do enough to make them safer for those on firetrucks. Since 1999, Beary said he and about 700 Chicago firefighters have filed suit. Some have been settled or ruled on, but the vast majority, about 500, are still open.

Firefighters contend the company could have designed sirens in a way that directs the volume away from areas where firefighters sit in the engines, shielding them from sound blasts that lawyers say reach 120 decibels, roughly equivalent to a rock concert.

Federal Signal argues that directing the sound defeats one of the main purposes of a siren — to warn motorists and pedestrians that a truck is coming. And it says it has long supported what many departments have advised their firefighters to do: wear ear protection.

David Duffy, attorney for Federal Signal, said studies measuring the level of noise firefighters are exposed to during their work shifts, including sirens, is on average below 85 decibels.

The lawsuits, which began surfacing more than a decade ago, have been in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and the Chicago area, said attorney Marc Bern, who’s leading all of them. In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said juries have decided in favor of Federal Signal in most of the half-dozen or so suits that have gone to trial.

The company also has settled in some cases without admitting any wrongdoing. The largest settlement, reached in 2011, required the company to pay $3.6 million to 1,069 firefighters for cases filed in Philadelphia.

Federal standards take into account the intensity of the sound and the duration. The higher the decibel level, the shorter the time workers can be exposed to it. Rick Neitzel, who studies noise and other exposures at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said the standards are geared to traditional jobs like manufacturing, not firefighting, where shifts can last longer and the exposure is intermittent but intense.

thanks Dan

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Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens

The Buffalo News has an article on a lawsuit by firefighters over excessive noise from emergency sirens.

There are few things more synonymous with firefighting than the loud, anxiety-inducing siren of an approaching fire engine. But are those ubiquitous sirens also damaging the hearing of the men and women who ride the trucks?

More than 190 Buffalo firefighters think so, and have filed suit seeking damages for their injuries.

The suits, which are similar to civil cases filed by firefighters in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago, claim the companies that made or used the sirens “knew or should have known” they were harmful.

The lawsuits – 20 are now pending in Buffalo federal court – seek an unspecified amount in damages for each of the 193 firefighters named in them. Filed in state court in September, they recently were moved to federal court by the six defendants.

“All parties are entitled to have their rights determined by the judicial system, and that applies to defendants as well as plaintiffs,” said Anthony J. Colucci III, a lawyer for Pierce Manufacturing, one of the defendants.

This is not the first time firefighters have sued over a loss of hearing. In early 2011, Federal Signal Corp., a manufacturer of fire engine sirens, announced a settlement with 1,125 firefighters represented by one of the lawyers in the Buffalo case.  Under that settlement, the company offered to pay $3.8 million, but characterized the offer as a “favorable development.” The Illinois-based manufacturer cited its success in obtaining defense verdicts in cases that went to trial and its track record in getting other suits dismissed by the court. The settlement offer amounted to an average of $3,380 for each of the firefighters.

“Federal Signal has strong defenses to these claims, and we are committed to defending our siren products and litigating these cases as necessary,” said Jennifer Sherman, chief administrative officer and general counsel for the company, at the time. “Sirens are necessary public safety products and save lives.”

Bern alleges that his clients were subjected to a harmful work environment and, in court papers, suggests that several factors contributed to their hearing loss, including a truck compartment that by design invited excessive noise. He also says the compartment lacked adequate sound insulation.

In the 2011 announcement of the Federal Signal settlement, a lawyer for the 1,125 firefighters called the offer a satisfactory resolution and acknowledged the difficulty in winning the hearing loss cases.

The other defendants in the lawsuits are American LaFrance, Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Seagrave Fire Apparatus and Mack Trucks, all of Pennsylvania.

The link between noise and hearing loss in firefighters dates back decades. In 1992, then-U.S. Fire Administrator Olin L. Greene, the nation’s top fire official, said noise is probably “the most underrated health hazard” for firefighters and emergency service personnel.

More recently, a University of California study in 2007 found 40 percent of all firefighters were at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. The study of more than 400 firefighters from 35 fire departments in California, Illinois and Indiana also found that firefighters use ear protection devices – ear muffs and ear plugs – only about a third of the time.


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