Anyone who works in Maryland’s public safety sector is committed to protecting others – but it is critical to note that this commitment often leaves them facing serious risks to their own safety.
In particular, the risk of suffering a fatal injury on the job is especially high for firefighters, but new reports indicate that safety measures might be improving for firefighters across the nation.
Fatal accidents down for firefighters
A recent report found that, across the country, 62 firefighters suffered fatal injuries on the job in 2019. This number is of note since it is:
- The lowest the fatality rate has been since 1977
- A stark reduction from even 2018, with a 26% decrease
- There were no multiple fatality incidents
While the reduction in the fatality rate on the job is good news, any fatality is still a serious issue for firefighters. And according to the report from the U.S. Fire Administration, the purpose of tracking this rate is to increase awareness of what causes fatal accidents on the job and to help prevent them in the future.
So, what are the most common causes of fatal injuries?
Firefighters know they face significant dangers on the job, but what are the greatest risks to their health and safety? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the most common causes of firefighter deaths on the job are:
- Injuries from explosions
- Internal trauma, from crushing injuries
However, cardiac arrest remains the most common cause of death for firefighters.
This is a stressful and challenging job – both emotionally and physically. These risks, in addition to the work environment frequently filled with gas, smoke and other toxins, create straining circumstances that make cardiac arrest highly likely.
Cardiac arrest is often sudden and fatal. At the very least, it can cause long-term organ damage and health issues. While predicting the signs of other fatal risk factors on the job can be challenging, all firefighters must be aware of the symptoms of cardiac arrest – as well as the tips to prevent it – to increase their safety on the job.
Fatal injuries might be slowly decreasing for firefighters, and they are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits for serious injuries on the job. However, firefighters must still be consciously aware of these risks every time they gear up.
Additionally, there are often undetectable exposures that lead to serious illness after years of service, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Maryland Law recognizes the long-term risk of public safety employees, including firefighters, and such workers, even after retirement, may be entitled to medical coverage and compensation for their illnesses.