For the love of labor and safety!

by Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Labor Day honors the American worker — you! It's a time we set aside to remember a movement that fundamentally changed our relationship with our jobs, and in so doing, made this country stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

It has been a rough and early fire season.  Many are still assigned to the fires burning throughout the state. Thank you for the hard labor you are putting in to protect the communities at risk. The bad news is more warm weather and winds are in the forecast.

Labor Day marks the beginning of the end of summer — so for many of us it's a chance to pack one last fun-filled weekend in, enjoying the outdoors with family and friends. Of course, as firefighters we can't rely on having a three-day weekend without work, but hopefully you'll get a day or two off to enjoy yourself.


Following are some tips to make the most of Labor Day:

  • Enjoy the water safely. Lakes, water parks, swimming pools and the ocean play a big part in Labor Day. Seems like everyone just wants to be by the water, assuming the weather permits. Before you hit the water, make sure you're equipped with all necessary safety equipment. If you're boating, that includes a full tank of gas, life vests and a first-aid kit. It's also good to let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return, so authorities have an idea where to search if you do not make it back home. When swimming in the ocean or a lake, stay near a lifeguard if possible. Whatever kind of water activity you're enjoying, keep kids within sight and arm's reach. And remember: Alcohol and swimming do not mix!
  • Whip up a feast without whipping up a fire. Barbeques are a signature feature of Labor Day plans. If you're planning to grill, keep it safe. Locate your grill away from combustibles and vegetation. Dispose of hot coals only in designated receptacles. Always keep a water source nearby and keep children away from the grill.
  • Protect yourself inside and out. Remember to protect your skin and eyes from the rays of the sun by wearing cover-ups, sunscreen, sunglasses and hats. But it doesn't stop there! Labor Day picnics can pose the threat of food poisoning. Ensure food is properly refrigerated and cooked thoroughly. That mayonnaise-based potato salad isn't meant to sit in the hot sun for three hours before you eat it!
  • Drive defensively. The journalist Doug Larson once wrote, "If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day weekend." If you're on the road, you'll have the company of millions of other drivers. Be patient. There are many of distracted drivers out there. Remember to not drink and drive, always wear your seat belt and put that phone away! No matter your destination, take your time to ensure you and your family arrive safely.
  • Prepare for a busy shift. It's the sad truth of our profession that when the public is off work having a good time, our own workload often rises. Labor Day can bring an increase in vehicle accidents, injuries from slips and strains, and drownings. If you'll be on duty, make sure you and your crew are prepared for the additional call volume.
  • Thank your union leadership. If you're in a union department, Labor Day has special significance. Unions fought for many of the basic rights we take for granted today — better wages, reasonable working hours, safer working conditions. Across the U.S. unions have been in decline for decades, making it even more meaningful that many firefighters belong to one. Take this time to thank your union leadership for their efforts to represent you.

For additional Labor Day safety tips, click here.

Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. He also is VP of Fire Operations for www.Cordico.com