Each year, tens of thousands of firefighters are injured while fighting fires, rescuing people, responding to hazardous materials incidents, and training for their job. While the majority of injuries are minor, a significant number are debilitating and career ending. Such injuries exact both a great human toll and financial toll. The costs the firefighters bear - economically and in terms of pain and suffering - are immense. The jurisdictions where they work must also absorb the direct costs of lost work time, possibly higher insurance premiums, disability and early retirement payments, overtime for substitutes, and costs to train replacement personnel.
This above referenced study, "The Economic Consequences of Firefighter Injuries and Their Prevention", found that there were approximately 1.1 million firefighters in the United States during the time data was evaluated for. Given the number of injuries and the number of firefighters, the average rate of accidents, firefighters were found to have an abnormally higher rate of injuries per worker than in most other occupations.
Over the years, basic measures of preventing accidents and injuries have been developed by major organizations. The National Safety Council advocates the following four measures, in the order of effectiveness and preference. They include:
- First, eliminate the hazard from the machine, method, material or plant structure
- Second, control the hazard by enclosing or guarding it at its source
- Third, train personnel to be aware of the hazard and to follow safe job procedures to avoid it, and
- Fourth, prescribe personal protective equipment for personnel to shield them against the hazard.
Safety practices in business and industry have helped reduce losses and its impact in the business community for years, and these same practices make perfect sense for the emergency services discipline as well. We only have to apply them at all levels of the organization.Safety 101 -
Dr. William F. Jenaway, CSP, CFO, CFPS is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in Safety and Risk Management, in the insurance industry. Bill is also an adjunct professor in Risk Analysis in the Graduate School at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia (PA) Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management.