Detroit medics, firefighters told to clean up bloody scenes without training, equipment


  • Steve Neavling

Mike Nevin figured it was a prank.

There's no way the city is now requiring firefighters and medics to clean up blood from crime and accident scenes without the proper training or equipment, the president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association told himself.

“I thought it was a joke when I first saw it,” Neven tells Metro Times. “This is beyond insane.”

Beginning Tuesday, firefighters and medics are required to use hoses to wash blood and other bodily fluids “down the sewer drains,” even though they lack the equipment and training to handle biohazard remediation. They also are tasked with collecting bloody clothing and other material and take it to the firehouse in “a red bio bag,” which Nevin said no one has received.

On Wednesday, the union filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), expressing concern for the employees and the public.

“Employees have received no training on blood and bodily fluid clean up and have no knowledge of proper procedures involved as this is not Fire Fighting or EMS work,” Nevin wrote in the complaint. “Employees have not been provided with adequate safety to dilute and flush blood and bodily fluids down drains whether on public or private property.”

In the past, emergency officials usually relied on professionals trained in biohazard remediation because blood can carry infectious diseases and other harmful biological contaminants. Cleanup companies also are equipped to test an area to ensure it is thoroughly sanitized.

The potential harm from blood is why OSHA developed the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, a list of stringent guidelines to protect employees and the public.

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, who helped write up the new requirements for firefighters and medics, declined to immediately comment on the complaint until he had a chance to review it.

On Wednesday, when a dispatcher asked about the status of an ambulance, a medic responded, “We’re still cleaning up blood.”

Nevin is incensed and baffled.

“We are not janitors, and we certainly are not biohazard experts,” Nevin said. “The public should be concerned. There are a lot of very serious problems with this.”

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