Firefighting training for the purpose of developing a firefighter's ability to perform certain activities held not part of firefighting per se
Sears v City of New York, 160 AD3d 471,
Jamel Sears, a probationary firefighter, died as the result of suffering dehydration while performing the New York City's Fire Academy's physically demanding Functional Skills Training (FST) exercise course, a course designed to simulate actual firefighting tasks under a controlled environment. Sherita Sears submitted a claim for certain benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §205-a, claim predicated on an alleged violation of Labor Law §27-a,
The Appellate Division ruled that the plaintiff in this action, Sherita Sears, was not entitled to recover under GML §205-a,*as the injuries Jamel Sears had sustained while participating in FST exercises were not the type of occupational injury that Labor Law §27-a** was designed to address.
The court explained that the FST course was "part of training and not part of firefighting per se" and was for the purpose of developing the firefighter's ability to perform certain activities efficiently, which activities were a necessary and important part of their job as it ensures that a firefighter could effectively perform those tasks during an actual fire.
The Appellate Division opined that the "risks of dehydration and other physiological conditions experienced during FST training are the same as those inherent in actual firefighting. Given the special dangers firefighters face, and their responsibility to protect the public, judgments as to how they should be trained are better left for the FDNY supervisors and not second-guessed by the Department of Labor," apparently a reference to provisions set out in Labor Law §27-a(2)(2) in particular.
* GML §205-a, provides, in pertinent part, an "additional right of action to certain injured or representatives of certain deceased firefighters" in the event any accident, causing injury, death or a disease which results in death, occurs directly or indirectly as a result of any neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence of any person or persons in failing to comply with the requirements of any of the statutes, ordinances, rules, orders and requirements of the federal, state, county, village, town or city governments or of any and all their departments, divisions and bureaus, the person or persons guilty of said neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence at the time of such injury or death shall be liable to pay any officer, member, agent or employee of any fire department injured, or whose life may be lost while in the discharge or performance at any time or place of any duty imposed by the fire commissioner, fire chief or other superior officer of the fire department,
** Labor Law §27-a(2), "Safety and health standards for public employees", provides in pertinent part, that every employer shall "(1) furnish to each of its employees, employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees and which will provide reasonable and adequate protection to the lives, safety or health of its employees; and (2) comply with the safety and health standards promulgated under this section. In applying this paragraph, fundamental distinctions between private and public employment shall be recognized."
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