Firefighter seeks workers’ comp after witnessing death

A Massachusetts firefighter has not worked in several months after witnessing an on-the-job accident fatality. Although the accident occurred in July, the firefighter who witnessed it – a 32-year employee of the fire department – has not yet returned to his duties.

We originally wrote about this case three months ago, shortly after the workplace accident happened. A 27-year veteran of the force was killed while he was working on a vehicle on the street behind the fire station. A jack slipped and pinned him beneath the vehicle. Several of his colleagues immediately worked to try to save the firefighter, but he died of his injuries in Boston two days later.

Immediately after the accident, grief counselors and firefighters from nearby areas descended on the town to help the survivors cope and to provide essential services. The firefighter who has been unable to work since then was one of the initial responders to the accident, and since that day he has not returned to the fire station.

The firefighter has been evaluated by a doctor at Boston University who sent a letter to the town manager saying that the firefighter is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his friend’s death. However, the town manager disputes the validity of the letter, saying it does not meet the requirements spelled out in the employee union’s contracts with the town.

Workplace accidents have an immediate impact not only on those who are killed or injured, but on the indirect victims-families of the injured employee, certainly, but also those who may try to render aid to a valued friend and co-worker.

Source: Daily News of Newburyport, “Salisbury fighter claims post-traumatic stress,” Angeljean Chiaramida, Nov. 8, 2011