TRENTON � A bill sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, to allow local volunteer firefighting companies or municipalities to require volunteer firefighters to supply a physician�s certificate as a condition of serving was approved 5-0 today by the Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans� Affairs Committee.
The impetus for the bill was the case of a 92-year-old man who suffered a fractured hip while working as a volunteer firefighter. A state appeals court ruled the fire company was liable for $100,000 because of the man�s injuries.
Current law does not address the physical condition of volunteer firefighters,� said Senator Girgenti, chairman of the committee. �It covers the insurance and liability issues related to the potentially dangerous work that they do. This is a pragmatic and sensible approach to this issue.�
State Education statutes authorize boards of education to require employees to undergo a physical examination, which may include individual psychiatric or physical examinations. The law now is silent, however, with regard to the power of municipalities and fire districts to require volunteers to produce physician’s certificates.
�The bill is not a mandate on the local fire companies or municipalities,� Girgenti said. �It merely permits them to require a physician�s certification as a condition of service. And some doctors, including those serve as volunteer firefighters, may be willing to provide the certification at a discount for volunteer firefighters.�
The bill (S-2508) addresses concerns over the possibility that the cost of obtaining a physical certification could deter people from volunteering. It does not expressly require physical certification for every member.
�This flexibility would allow a chief to require certification from volunteers over a certain age without requiring all members to bear the cost of a physical,� Girgenti said. �The goal of the bill is to permit local units to ensure that the volunteers they allow to serve as firefighters are fit to perform the duties assigned them.�
The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.