Bryan firefighters seek to address COVID-19 workers’ comp issue with the city

The association submitted a statement during Tuesday's council meeting
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 11:17 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Bryan Firefighters Association took a public step Tuesday in airing concerns about firefighter safety during the pandemic.

The group made a statement during the “Hear Citizens” portion of the Bryan city council meeting. It was not a formal presentation, so there was no discussion on the topic.

The association president says they chose to make a public statement after speaking with city leaders for months, trying to get assurance that firefighters will be taken care of if they contract COVID-19 while on duty.

“We are seeing our brothers and sisters who are first responders as well, like police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs that are being exposed on a high rate to COVID-19,″ said Bryan Fire Fighter Association President Daniel Buford.

So far, Buford says no Bryan fire fighters have tested positive for the virus. He says they are asking for the city to pay for the medical bills associated with COVID-19, and paid leave if a fire fighter tests positive. That was part of the message Tuesday.

Buford says that for the last month, they have been coming to the city with their concerns about COVID-19 not being considered a workers’ compensation issue. According the Texas Government Code 607.054, “A firefighter, peace officer, or emergency medical technician who suffers from tuberculosis, or any other disease or illness of the lungs or respiratory tract that has a statistically positive correlation with service as a firefighter, peace officer, or emergency medical technician, that results in death or total or partial disability is presumed to have contracted the disease or illness during the course and scope of employment as a firefighter, peace officer, or emergency medical technician.”

“Follow the rules that have been put forth to protect your first responders,” said Buford.

While the law does not specifically cite COVID-19, they think they should be covered.

According to Buford, up until Friday, Bryan fire fighters have been using their accrued sick leave to take off of work for mandatory 14 day quarantines after potential exposures to the new coronavirus.

He says after discussing these issues with the city, that has now been changed to administrative leave with pay. Buford says they were happy with that adjustment and hope they can reach an agreement on the workers’ compensation issue, too.

Buford says he is fighting to make sure that fire fighters and their families will not have to worry if an infection does happen, so then they can continue to serve the community to their full abilities during the pandemic.

“If the worst case scenario happens where I develop some kind of issue with my lungs, where I can not wear a breathing apparatus, I want to know that I will be protected by workers’ comp,” said Buford.

Following the meeting, KBTX reached out to the mayor and multiple council members for comment. City of Bryan officials say that is because it is a personnel issue, they do no comment on it.

Copyright 2020 KBTX. All rights reserved.

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