Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 9:11 am
By Michael J. Karter, Jr. and Joseph Molis
For NFPA Journal
Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury. A better understanding of how these fatalities, injuries, and illnesses occur can help identify corrective actions, which could help minimize the inherent risks. In an effort to do just that, NFPA studies firefighter deaths and injuries annually to provide national statistics on their frequency, extent, and characteristics.
Based on survey collected from fire departments during the NFPA Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience, NFPA estimates that 69,400 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2012. This is a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before and the lowest it’s been since NFPA analyses began in 1981. In recent years, the number of firefighter injuries has been considerably lower than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is due, in part, to additional survey questions on exposures that allow us to place them in their own categories, rather than including them as part of the total injuries in other categories.
NFPA also estimates that there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases last year, such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV, amounting to 0.3 exposures per 1,000 emergency medical runs by fire departments. In addition, there were 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions, such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes in 2012. This amounts to 18.2 exposures per 1,000 hazardous condition runs. An estimated 14,350 injuries, or 20.6 percent of all firefighter injuries, resulted in time out of work.
2012 FIREFIGHTER INJURIES BY THE NUMBERS
There were 69,400 firefighter injuries in the line of duty in 2012, a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before.In addition to injuries, there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases and 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions.Of the injuries, 31,490, or 45.4 percent of all firefighter injuries in 2012, occurred during fireground operations. An estimated 4,190 occurred while responding to, or returning from, an incident; 7,140 during training activities; 12,760 at nonfire emergencies, and 13,820 during other on-duty activities.The Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires than other regions of the United States.The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were strains, sprains, and muscular pain, which accounted for 55.2 percent of the injuries; wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises, which accounted for 12.2 percent; thermal stress, which accounted for 5.8 percent; and burns, which accounted for 5.7 percent. Strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 58.5 percent of all nonfireground injuries.The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion, strain, and falls, slips, and jumps.
Read the full report here.