It goes without saying that firefighters face multiple on-the-job hazards that can affect their health. But, firefighters face some health dangers that might not be so obvious.
For the nation’s 327,300 firefighters, running to a burning building brings the danger of injury via intense heat, smoke inhalation, and the threat of building collapse from weakened floors, walls and ceilings. There are also the unseen dangers of airborne chemicals and stress associated with the profession.
The National Fire Protection Association in 2017, there were:
- Nearly 60,000 injuries
- More than 7,300 documented exposures to infectious diseases
- More than 44,500 documented exposures to hazardous conditions
- More than 15,400 fire department vehicles involved in collisions while going to or returning from incidents, resulting in 4,555 firefighter injuries
- About 24,495 injuries while fighting fires, 8,380 injuries during training exercises, 12,240 at non-fire incidents and 9,165 while on duty but doing other activities
The injuries received while fighting fires include:
- Strain or sprain – 48 percent
- Wound, cut or bruise – 15 percent
- Smoke or gas inhalation – 7 percent
- Frostbite or heat exhaustion – 5 percent
- Other injuries – 25 percent
Firefighters also suffer psychological stress from the job. PTSD, anxiety and depression can result from the constant response to emergencies that include pain and trauma. Long term stress from firefighting may also lead the hypertension disorder.
Additionally, prolonged exposure to carcinogens and other chemicals either at a firehouse or fire scenes are known causes, at least in part, to cardiovascular disease and many forms of cancer. Maryland law has a special presumption specifically geared to protect and provide benefits to public safety employees.
Maryland firefighters have a wide range of worker’s compensation benefits available to them if they are injured on the job, including reimbursement for medical costs, compensation while out of work, vocational rehabilitation, and compensation for permanent injuries.
If you are a firefighter, check with a qualified worker’s compensation lawyer to make sure you get the help you need after an on-the-job injury or occupational disease.