“Pennsylvania Firefighters Sue Over Hearing Loss From Sirens”

by Walter Olson on May 1, 2013

“Four Pittsburgh firefighters are suing seven companies that manufacture fire trucks or sirens, claiming they’ve lost hearing due to the blaring sirens. … They contend the manufacturers should have insulated the sirens to protect their hearing and/or provided warnings about their use.” [Claims Journal]

{ 11 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 05.01.13 at 8:36 am

Not only that, but those flashing lights can blind you and when they race to the fire, there could be an accident. Firefighters should make their ways to fires in battery-powered subcompacts (to lessen the environmental impact) or possibly on bicycles.

Oh, and that red paint they use on firetrucks? Has anyone done a study on how it can distract people from their twitter feeds? Think of the inconvenience!

Bob

2 William 05.01.13 at 10:39 am

I guess this is being brought as a products liability claim against the manufacturers because the employers have sovereign immunity? It would seem to me that the products are not the issue, improper use is. When I was in the military firing weapons which produced excessive decibels, they provided ear protection and required its use.

3 Douglas2 05.01.13 at 11:27 am

I’ve long thought that sirens for emergency vehicles would be an ideal application for phased array transducers, because the current horns do radiate far too much sound in undesirable directions.

4 Jim Collins 05.01.13 at 11:42 am

I wonder if I can sue Grumman, Lockheed, LTV and McDonnell Douglas for the hearing loss I got from working the flight deck of an aircraft carrier? I did wear hearing protection.

5 Hogbody Spradlin 05.01.13 at 3:02 pm

ISN’T THAT THE WHOLE IDEA!?

6 Carol Hill 05.02.13 at 5:04 pm

How many years have sirens been used on fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances? I’m guessing we’re getting close to a 100 years…and, we’re just now finding a problem with sirens?

Or, has some lawyer just found a new angle to gain access to corporate coffers?

What about all us baby-boomers who left dozens of rock concerts with our ears ringing? Can we sue the bands and promoters for not providing protective insulation, or warning us about the dangers to our hearing? Granted, attending concerts wasn’t our job (although a few took it more seriously than their jobs), but we paid to attend–paid to have our hearing damaged, and that’s got to be someone else’s fault. Surely, we weren’t expected to be responsible for the safety of our own ears? We were just kids, and promoters were spending millions to persuade us to attend concerts, and not one word was ever said about possible side-affects or negative consequences. There were no warning labels on the tickets!

See, I could have been a lawyer.

7 theprez98 05.02.13 at 9:53 pm

Assumption of risk?

8 Carol Hill 05.03.13 at 2:56 pm

@theprez98: Rats. Don’t go ruining my case, please.

9 Martin Verhaegen 05.03.13 at 6:55 pm

I fully support these firefighters. At least here in Europe, sirens have gotten louder with each new generation of emergency vehicles, and have now reached sound pressure levels that will indeed cause hearing damage at close range. Behavior that may have been perfectly safe 20 years ago isn’t any more. Emergency personnel must be informed of this risk and the need to wear hearing protection in certain situations. As a pedestrian, I find the latest sirens excessively loud and one of the most unpleasant aspects of city life. May this lawsuit therefore draw attention to the problem and result in legislation limiting the allowed sound pressure for sirens.

10 Bill Poser 05.05.13 at 8:22 pm

If it is true that sirens have gotten louder, is the appropriate approach to protecting firefighters insulating the sirens? I would think that soundproofing the fire trucks would work better, at least for conventional sirens. Of course that wouldn’t help firefighters riding on the outside of the truck.

11 Carol Hill 05.06.13 at 2:34 pm

@ Bill Poser: I don’t think firefighters in the US ride on the outside of trucks anymore. It is now a violation National Fire Protection Association guidelines, and most municipalities safety and liability policies.

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