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Home > Loss Control > Loss Control Insights > Spring 2009 Volume 43 > Updates on Firefighter Health and Safety

Updates on Firefighter Health and Safety

Keeping Firefighters Safe

Catch up on the latest news regarding firefighter safety. Go to Insights Online for information about the use of high-visibility apparel on federally-funded roadways, a campaign to encourage seat belt use, the introduction of a safety blog for firefighters, and the results of a recent study about the increased risk of breast cancer among female firefighters.

Below is a summary of some of the many items that have come across our desk relating to firefighter health and safety.

Federal Highway High-Visibility Apparel Rule

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a final rule, which went into effect on Nov. 28, 2008, requiring workers on federal highways to wear high- visibility apparel that meets ANSI 107-2004 Class 2 or 3 requirements. However, some in the firefighting community expressed concerns that the required apparel could create hazards when exposed to heat from vehicle fires or if snagged on equipment. In response, FHWA determined that turnout gear covered by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is equivalent to an ANSI 107-2004 Class 2 garment for firefighters who are directly exposed to fire, heat or hazardous materials. However, when those workers are not in such situations, they must wear the apparel required by the FHWA standard.

[Source: National Safety Council]

NIOSH Endorses Firefighter Seat Belt Campaign

Between 1998 and 2007, 67 percent of the 114 fire personnel killed in vehicle crashes were known not to be wearing a seat belt or restraint system, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The Seat Belt Pledge campaign, developed by the National Fire Service, is aimed at reducing that number by encouraging all firefighters and fire departments across the country to pledge to buckle up 100 percent of the time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is proud to join the U.S. Fire Administration, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, NFPA and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in support of the Seat Belt Pledge campaign.

[Source: NIOSH]

How Safe Are Firefighter Boots?

Rubber firefighter boots, which are cheaper and heavier than leather boots, alter how firefighters walk and may cause them to expend more energy, preliminary results from a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study show. About 25 percent of the 80,100 occupational injuries suffered in 2007 were attributed to overexertion, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association. To ascertain whether or not some types of boots commonly worn by firefighters may attribute to these injuries, NIOSH scientists recruited firefighters to wear various models of leather and rubber boots and monitored their oxygen consumption, joint movement and walking patterns. The results? Heavier boots change how firefighters move and possibly affect their efficiency. Furthermore, study participants who wore the heavier boots walked slower and took wider steps, and also consumed more oxygen and had a higher heart rate than those who wore other footwear.

[Source: National Safety Council]

Firefighter Blog Introduced

Want to read the latest news about prevention, preparedness and response with respect to fire and related emergencies from the people who know it best? Check out a new interactive blog launched by the United States Fire Administration. Fire personnel are encouraged to post comments and success stories on this constantly growing blog.

Female Firefighters May Face Increased Risk Of Cancer

Exposures to certain chemicals have been identified as possible risk factors for breast cancer and, according to research by Cornell University, some of these chemicals may occur during firefighting activities. The study singles out formaldehyde and benzene as two of the most prevalent carcinogens that result from the thermal decomposition of a host of products. The study confirms the health-related value of using personal protective equipment, specifically a self-contained breathing apparatus, in all types of non-structural and structural firefighting activities. This apparatus is especially important for female firefighters. For a brochure that highlights the results of this study, visit envirocancer.cornell.edu/learning/alert/fire08.cfm.

Firefighter Injuries In 2007

The National Fire Protection Association tallied 80,100 line-of-duty firefighter injuries in 2007. Some key points from that study include:

[Source: National Fire Protection Association]

 

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