NFPA injury report good news, but more work to do
Examining report categories shows areas we can focus on to reduce line-of-duty injuries
We often focus our fire departments' health and safety efforts at eliminating firefighter line-of-duty deaths, and rightly so.
In my experience, however, it is also important to reduce firefighter line-of-duty injuries (LODIs) that can lead to lost careers and/or a significantly diminished quality of life for our brothers and sisters who are injured while providing fire and emergency services, while training, or while on stand-by to respond.
There's no question that this latest NFPA report contains good news and is hopefully a reflection of forward progress in the U.S. fire service's continued emphasis on safety, health and wellness. Still, we know these NFPA estimates are not exact figures on LODIs and, regardless, they still point us toward the need for continued reductions.
What else can we do?
The prevalence of "strains, sprains, and muscular pain" suggests that efforts around physical fitness, safe movement and appropriate staffing levels could still pay great dividends in terms of decreased injury rates and, as a result, reduced costs for medical treatment, workers compensation, disability retirements, and (in some cases) replacement staffing.
And that's not to mention the qualitative benefit of not having our colleagues wake up in pain for the rest of their lives.
It also seems likely that exposures to hazardous conditions and blood-borne pathogens could be further reduced with continued emphasis on the use of personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection, on every incident where toxic or hazardous substances might reasonably be encountered. This includes, of course, every structure or vehicle fire from the incipient stage through salvage and overhaul.