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Firefighters: Beware the signs of a heart attack

| Mar 23, 2020 | Workplace Injuries

Firefighters know that the job they sign up for is stressful. They must be constantly alert and ready to jump into action in an emergency.

This can place extreme and consistent stress on them – and their heart. That is precisely why all firefighters must be aware of the risk factors and signs of a heart attack while they are on the job.

Overlooking heart attack symptoms is common in the field

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for firefighters across the nation. And yet, many firefighters ignore the signs of a heart attack. They continue working even when they do not feel right.

According to Safety + Health Magazine, that is why the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) launched a campaign to emphasize just how important it is that firefighters do not ignore these critical signs.

The campaign, “If You Don’t Feel Well, Don’t Make it Your Farewell,” aims to “change the culture of denial in the profession,” and educate firefighters so they can take action to be safe.

Maryland Workers’ Compensation laws explicitly cover heart failure and heart disease for firefighters (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment §9-503). The legislature has recognized that the profession of a firefighter or paramedic includes such a degree of stress and pressure that the law presumes that if a person in that field is diagnosed with cardiovascular disease related to their work, it is a compensable and covered occupational disease in Maryland.

However, that considered, firefighters still must know the signs of a heart attack so they can stay safe. 

What are the signs of a heart attack?

It is critical to note that the signs of a heart attack vary for men and women. Not everyone experiences all of the symptoms either.

Even so, firefighters should be on the lookout for the most common signs of a heart attack, including:

  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in a shoulder or arm

The IAFC’s campaign encourages firefighters to seek medical assistance if they do not feel right, so they can catch a heart attack early and increase their chance of survival.

But remember, a claim for an occupationally related heart problem is covered under Maryland Workers’ Compensation, but is subject to the Employer/Insurer’s objection as to causation necessitating a Hearing, in most instances. Even with Maryland’s “presumption,” (Md. Ann. Code, LE 9-503,) the Employer/Insurer have a right to object to the claim. Therefore, if you experience a heart related condition, even after retirement from the department, it is essential to contact counsel to ensure you are covered and protected.


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