Winston-Salem Fire Department under OSHA investigation

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Fire Department is under investigation by OSHA.

This stems from complaints which were filed with the N.C. Department of Labor. The complaints include anything from faulty equipment to improper chemical storage to insufficient training and outdated blood-borne pathogen policies.

The Department of Labor sent a letter to Winston-Salem Fire officials on May 12 to notify them of the complaints, as well as ask for a response within seven days.

The fire department sent back four pages with a detailed response to every complaint.

“They were not one or two word, or one or two sentence responses. We basically told them what we did, or what we’re doing to deal with whatever the question pertained to,” said Winston-Salem Fire Department Chief Antony Farmer.

However, the Department of Labor was not satisfied with the response and an OSHA investigation was launched.

“I can’t see, for example, the Department of Labor or OSHA taking anybody’s word [that] gear is being replaced. Or, without physically coming in and doing an investigation,” said David Pollard, of the Winston-Salem Professional Firefighters Association.

Pollard says, if true, these allegations are serious. Especially when it comes to equipment that is vital for firefighters to fight fires.

“We can’t have failure with those things because somebody dies when we have issues,” said Pollard.

Chief Farmer says he has no idea who filed the complaints.

“It could be a disgruntled employee, an unsatisfied employee, it could be an employee that might not know,” said Farmer. “We’re confident that we’ll be in good shape. Our citizens are safe, our fire stations are safe and our people are safe.”

City officials say there have not been any injuries relating to anything filed in the complaints.

Officials with the Department of Labor say the investigation could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to complete.