NIOSH Releases Firefighter Fatality Reports

"If the driver and captain (the victim) in Engine 12 had been wearing their seat belts, it is possible that they would not have been ejected from the apparatus, and that their injuries may not have been as severe or fatal."

That was one of the conclusions NIOSH investigators determined following their probe of a fatal 2007 collision involving a ladder truck and an engine in Connecticut.

Capt. John Keane, 37, died of severe head trauma sustained when he was ejected from the engine in which he was riding. The driver also was thrown out, and suffered serious injuries.

Six other firefighters were injured in the crash involving the Waterbury, Conn. fire apparatus.

NIOSH investigators said in their report that as a "show of commitment to the enforcement of seat belt usage, fire departments should consider recommending that members participate in the National Seat Belt Pledge."

They also said: "A review of department records revealed evidence of seat belt enforcement, including implementation of disciplinary procedures, however, enforcement of any SOP, including seat belts, must be constantly and consistently trained upon, implemented and enforced..."

The failure to stop at a red light also was listed as a factor in the crash. Officials said drivers of emergency vehicles should stop at red lights, and proceed only after checking the intersection for on-coming traffic.

Crash re-constructionists determined the engine was going 18 mph and the ladder, 40-47 mph. The engine had the red light, and entered the intersection where it was hit by the ladder truck, witnesses told investigators.

The full report can be viewed here.

NIOSH also sent investigators to Ohio to probe an incident in which a firefighter adjusting a hose bed cover fell from the truck and hit his head.

Jon Trainer, 38, was a member of the Mechanicsburg, Ohio Fire Department. He struck his head on the concrete apron, and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

NIOSH said a number of factors contributed to the July 24, 2007 incident. They included the design of the engine which introduced numerous potential fall risks when loading the hose bed and securing the vinyl protective cover; fire department practices in loading the hose bed and securing the vinyl hose bed cover which were unwritten and inadequately addressed fall hazards, and damage to the mounting system of snaps which made securing the vinyl hose bed cover more cumbersome.

They made the following recommendations to prevent a similar occurrence:

  • Develop and implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the correct procedures/safe methods for reloading hose and securing hose bed covers
  • Consider requiring the use of a ladder when servicing items that are out of reach from ground level on the fire apparatus
  • Ensure that hose bed covers on fire apparatus are maintained in good physical condition or are replaced when needed
  • Consider when purchasing a new fire apparatus, that it be equipped with available safety features to assist with hose loading and covering the hose bed (e.g., a hose bed that hydraulically lowers, or hose bed covers that are hydraulic, roll-up, or hinged metal)

    To view the entire report here.