Firefighters: Take the Seat Belt Pledge

Despite the statistics, headlines and horror stories, seat belt safety procedures within the fire service are still largely ignored. In fact, when legislation mandating the use of seat belts for firefighters arises, it is often resisted by those whom it is designed to protect.

Following the investigation of a 2009 incident of a fatal crash of a ladder truck in Mission Hill, Mass., NIOSH has recommended that all government municipalities should: “Consider enacting legislation to include operators and occupants of fire department vehicles in existing seat belt legislation and/or repeal existing laws that exempt drivers and occupants of fire service vehicles from mandatory seat belt use.”

The value of a life may be incalculable, but department heads might be interested in a hypothetical insurance situation Larry Bennett recently came up with in his editorial on

Hypothetical: A 40-year-old, full-time firefighter, driving a water tanker to a structure fire, loses control and is ejected and killed when the tanker rolls. His widow, also age 40, with two children, learns from fellow firefighters that few firefighters or officers wear seat belts on this department. While there is a written policy requiring seat belts be worn, no one has ever been disciplined and the seat belt policy is simply ignored by most, including her late husband.

Ohio VSSR Penalties ($630,000 first offense; $315,000 second offense, plus $50,000 if within two years): Under Ohio law, a VSSR (“Violation of Specific Safety Requirement”) claim can result in an added award to an injured employee, or to their survivor. Every dollar paid to the employee or survivor is billed back to the employer, as a “penalty” for violating the safety requirement. The VSSR program is designed to “encourage” employers to avoid penalties by enforcing the safety regulations.

Here’s an eight-step instructional video from the Denver Fire Department that will walk you through how to properly secure and remove a safety belt while wearing an SCBA device:

Is your department 100% compliant? Have you taken the Seat Belt Pledge? For additional seat belt resources for firefighters, please visit’s FAQ page.