Firefighter injury prevention is about working smarter
Using the right tools to overcome physical obstacles is the first step to reducing the most common fireground injuries
The most common injuries to firefighters both on the fireground and in training involve sprained joints and muscles and ligaments that are strained or over exerted.
There have been many campaigns to educate and train firefighters to be aware of their work habits and to work smarter rather than harder.
There is much merit and truth to "work smarter, not harder" when it comes to our line of work and service. Fire trucks are stocked with the newest and best tools and equipment to help with our day-to-day operations.
When using the right tool or equipment, firefighters can get a lot accomplished in a short period of time and avoid placing added stress on their bodies.
The accompanying video shows an example of using the body rather than the proper tools or equipment to try to accomplish a task. When watching the video, focus on the efforts to open the garage door.
You will witness two firefighters trying to forcibly open a garage door by using their feet and bodies. The outcome is evident by the video and we are not sure if the two firefighters suffered any injuries as a result.
The question is: How could this have been avoided and the task of opening the garage door been accomplished? Having the right tools for the job is the answer.
In this case, a set of forcible-entry tools such as a rotary saw and a roof hook or a pike pole would have been helpful. The garage door could have been cut open with the saw while the roof hook was used to pull or hold the door away during the cut.
There are different ways to approach this with a rotary saw as far as style or sequence of cuts are concerned. But the main point is that the rotary saw would have taken the brunt of the physical work or stress of opening up the garage door rather than the firefighters' feet, leg bones, backs and joints.
What would have happened if one of the firefighters were hurt while kicking the door open?
They would have needed another firefighter to replace the injured firefighter on the hose line. If the injury was serious enough, it would mean shift changes and overtime for a career department or a staff shortage for a volunteer department.
A rotary saw is eventually brought to the garage door. But by that time, the garage door was opened by the kicking operation.
Had the saw been deployed sooner as part of proactive fireground operations, the garage door would have been opened a lot sooner and with a lot less stress on the feet.