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PTSD from clean-up, your thoughts?

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I recently read this article from Canada where the local fire department refused to return to a crash scene involving a fatality to do a "wash down", meaning hose off the roadway to remove blood and other contaminants to allow it to reopen to traffic. Eventually a highway maintenance contractor came out and did the wash down.


One of the concerns from the Fire Chief was limiting his fire fighters to exposure to the trauma, the other was the pollution issues associated with a wash down. I am curious what our industry thinks of these two concerns, and have you ever been asked to clean up human remains that are outside of the vehicle. I have been asked many times to tow vehicles with bodies in them, it is part of the job, but have never been asked to participate in removal of human remains outside of a vehicle before -except during rescue or recovery extractions.


What are your thoughts on highway construction or maintenance workers being exposed to this type of trauma, and should they have additional training on PTSD as well as bloodborne pathogens, environmental pollution and such before being tasked with doing wash downs?


What about towers, should we have this training as part of our required training to respond to crashes?


Below is the link to the story in question from July 17th.


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Hi Brian ... this topic of PTSD is one we've discussed before. It's my opinion that tow owners HIDE from training and the reality of PTSD as a way to avoid potential Worker's Compensation claims. Having presented three tow show seminars in Vegas, Dallas and Baltimore on the topic of PTSP, less than 100-hundred total attendees came to learn about PTSD. That's an indication of how owners don't care about PTSD. I agree that towers should have some from of PTSD recognition, but since there are no requirements (like in much of what those industry does) very few make an effort to Self-educate. I think the state of Texas is one that requires towers to participate in "continuing education" as means to better educate their responders. But, in states like California, fire departments DON'T wash blood and ground fluids down the gutter because of downstream considerations.


As far as limiting exposure, I personally feel that's a week excuse to limit a fire crew to one-incident of trauma when they respond to hundreds of trauma related incidents in a calendar year. Not sending a engine company to do a "wash down" keeps the fire engine "In-service' for other emergencies and paramedic runs. Bringing a contractor out to do the work may be the way of the future, but these scenarios are chance happenings and fuel for any soft-hearted tree-hugger to bring before the 5 o'clock news.


Just for fun ... California OSHA requires permits, licensing and training for individuals whose business it is to clean crime scenes. Here's a link to show what training is required by OSHA. Does it fit into the towing and recovery industry? Who knows? I don't believe it's the tower's responsibility.


Here's the link:  https://smallbusiness.chron.com/permits-certificates-licenses-required-start-crimescene-cleaning-service-24517.html

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Randall C. Resch

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Once again we see eye to eye on this. I also do not believe it is the towers problem to clean up remains, bodily fluids and such, however should a tower decide to provide that as an ancillary service they should be able to invoice for it much like the crime scene cleanup crews do. I believe the act of washing it down the drain has run it's course, and as you do in California, it should not be permitted due to the many chances of pollution it presents.


Proper site remediation should include proper disposal of all tainted materials, currently towers have no issue in removing oil and other vehicle fluids, debris and such but few towers (at least that I am aware of) provide 100% clean up and remediation services to include proper disposal of bodily fluids.


As for the fire department, yes it was a weak excuse. They could have simply refused to respond since it is not an emergency call, leaving it up to the highway department to clean the roadway as it ultimately ended up. The exposure excuse, especially from an Agency that is better trained and suited for this type of exposure than a contract highway construction crew, is suspect at best.


As for towers and PTSD, I do agree with you that most tow bosses hide from their responsibility to address this head on, and that is unacceptable. If you are going to respond to police calls for crashes and such there is a very high likelihood your drivers will be exposed to this type of trauma from time to time. Had I not been part of my local volunteer fire department I may not have been properly equipped to deal with fatal accidents when I was actively towing. Even with that training and preparation, quite a few still haunt me to this day. I for one applaud you for presenting your PTSD program, I took advantage of it and appreciated the effort that went into it.


None of us are Superman, we all have emotions. It is alright to admit you are not dealing with something well and to seek council, help if you will, before it destroys your mental health.

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We had a situation at our company, I cannot go into the details, but our owner was really good at making sure the operator was taken care of. There was a high possibility of some PTSD from the event and the owner was right on top of getting the operator the potential help he needed, in terms of counseling and some time off to deal with how he might feel. The operator was offered workman's comp for some counseling as well. The main issue that the operator had was that there seemed to be no services in our area that would take the pay scale that workman's comp was paying. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, I dont think the owners try to avoid paying for potential PTSD related services, I'm willing to bet that it is hard to find reasonable services for the employees, should the need arise. I'm also willing to bet that with everything the owners have to consider that is more pressing at the moment, this topic takes somewhat of a backseat unless it is brought up. 

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