Reducing the Risk of Lower Back Injury Caused by Rolling and Handling Fire Hose
Firefighting is hard, dangerous work. So why should a simple-yet-essential non-emergency task such as rolling and re-decking fire hose be either difficult or dangerous? Shouldn't fire fighters be able to manage fire hoses quickly, easily and safely, saving their energy and physical condition for the demanding task of suppressing fires?
There are two ways to reduce the risk of lower back strains and injuries. One is through physical fitness education and strength training, the other is to employ the use of tools and equipment designed to reduce the physical exertion required to handle heavy lifting and carrying duties. Although no national fire fighter fitness standards exist as of 2010, many fire departments have developed their own fitness programs. However, there is inconclusive research documenting its effectiveness. Because fitness requirements vary drastically among departments and unions worry that mandatory tests would be detrimental to their members, national fitness standards and practices have a long way to go. In contrast, there is evidence that departments that invest in equipment such as hose rollers do see a return in fewer back injuries as well as time saved. In fact, the one-time investment in a long-lasting piece of safety equipment can pay for itself by eliminating the expense of just one serious back injury.
Many departments are hindered by budget restraints when considering the purchase of additional tools and safety equipment. But a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (1) was able to quantify what firefighter’s injuries cost so that figure can be compared to the expenses associated with preventing and mitigating injuries. “For many years fire departments have suffered in silence with the impact of the 80,000 plus injuries every year,” Chief David Daniels of Fulton County (Ga.), chairman of the Health, Safety and Survival Section of International Association of Fire Chiefs, said. “This report can be an important tool to help fire chiefs make an objective case for the importance of prevention of injuries and saving nearly a billion dollars to our nation's economy.”
There are both manual and motorized hose rollers on the market today that make the necessary task of moving and maintaining fire hose less stressful on the lower back and allow much of the work to be accomplished from a safer, standing position – reducing the stooped posture necessary for rolling hose by hand. Some even accommodate LDH hose increasing the risk saving factors. The potential of this type of equipment to save time, injury and money seems well worth considering.
To this date, hose rollers have helped a lot of firefighters roll a lot of hose, but the potential remains enormous to help save many more departments both money, injury to personnel and time. Roll safely!
Chris Michaelis, Director of Marketing
Deschutes River Manufacturing, Bend, Oregon
(1) - Publication: Fire Chief Article: NIST: Firefighter Injuries Cost Billions Per Year © 2005 Penton Media
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