FIREFIGHTERS AND THEIR MOST REPORTED CAUSE OF INJURY: OVEREXERTION, WORK INJURIES FOR SAFETY OFFICERS, AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Firefighters play a vital role in society.  Each Firefighter represents a significant investment by a community.  Therefore, there is significant study into how and why Firefighters are injured.  Researchers use the term overexertion to describe mechanisms of injury.

This type of research is important for Firefighters.  When a Firefighter is injured and the mechanism of injury is of a certain nature, there will be a certain reaction from Management and Risk Management.   If Management and Risk Management is aware that a particular type of injury is common, it may be viewed with less scrutiny. Likewise, Firefighters claiming injury that are unique in nature may be subject to greater scrutiny.

This article will discuss overexertion, the results of a recent study and what Firefighter should be concerned about concerning the results of the study.

What Is Overexertion?

The Study noted that   “according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the term “overexertion” is sometimes used synonymously or interchangeably with “bodily reaction” Strains can be defined as injury to the muscle or musculotendinous joint, and sprains are an injury to the ligament.” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: essentially, overexertion injuries are orthopedics injuries. For example, back injuries which are usually lumbar sprains/strains, or cervical sprains/strains.   It can include injuries to both the upper and lower extremities such as shoulder sprains/strains and knee sprains/strains.

Why Is Overexertion Injuries Significant With Respect to Workers’ Compensation?

Per the Study, Overexertion.. is the leading cause of non-fatal injury across ten industry categories and accounts for 35% of non-fatal injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work per year.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Work Injuries can be costly to both private and government positions.  The study noted that the “resultant sprain and strain injuries cost U.S. businesses and organizations an estimated USD 13.8 billion a year in direct costs, which include medical and lost-wage payments.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: with respect to any industry, including Fire Departments, there is a need to contain risk management costs by having injury reduction.

What Did the Overexertion Study Tells Us About Firefighter Injuries?

The study found that despite the fact that the occupation deals with fire and its destructive properties to a human body, it is the overexertion which is the greatest source of injury to for firefighting personnel. .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: with respect to this study, it important to note that the Departments appear to do an excellent job with respect to safety equipment to prevent fire and burn-related injuries.   Thus, orthopedic injuries then emerge as the most common source of injury.

Another study provided additional data of interest. “Leading injury events were fires and explosions (36%) and overexertion and bodily reactions (20%). A majority (38%) of injuries occurred during firefighting activities, 7% occurred during training, and 7% occurred during patient care. Sprains and strains accounted for the largest proportion of injuries in all three of these activities: 28% firefighting activities, 32% training, and 36% patient care. Nonfatal Injuries to Firefighters Treating in U.S. Emergency Departments, 2003-2014, Suzanne M. Marsch, MPA, Melody Gwilliam MPH Srinivas Konda MPH Hope M.Tiesman PhD Rita Fahy Phd, American Journal of Preventative Medicine Volume 55, Issue 3, September 2018, P. 353-360.

Does Age Have an Impact with Respect to What Injuries Firefighters Have?

Yes.  The study found that younger firefighters have different injuries than older firefighters.  The study found that  “FF personnel aged less than 39 experienced higher levels of injury as a result of fires and explosions, transportation incidents, and contact with objects and equipment, relative to those aged 40 and above. Those aged 40 and above experienced falls, slips and trips, as well as overexertion and bodily reactions at a higher prevalence than their younger counterparts.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

What will Department Do about This?

The study recommended a focus on fitness and ergonomics.  Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020.

Note: the challenges to this issue is that a significant amount of firefighting activity is performed in conditions in which ergonomics may not be able to be practiced.  Thus, this is a significant challenge.  Also, in the other study, overexertion injuries appear to be spread about evenly across the many task performed.  Therefore, an overall approach may be taken by Departments as opposed to any particular job task.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

AGE, PHYSICAL DEMANDING JOBS AND MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDERS: OLDER WORKERS AT RISK FOR WORK INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Labor Market in the United States is aging. As a result, Older Workers are performing a large variety of task within the Open Labor Market. Older Workers performing more tasks that make them at risk for work injuries. This is the case with respect to musculoskeletal injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries are commonly known as orthopedics injuries which include medical conditions with respect to the spine, the upper and the lower extremities. A study was done with respect and there were some findings made.

This article will discuss Older Workers, injury rates for Older Workers, and laws which impact Older Workers’ Workers’ Compensation Claims.

Does Age Matter When Looking at the Risk of Work Injuries?

Age alone is not the issue. The type of labor is what is of import. In the labor market, there are jobs with minimal physical demands. There are other jobs which involve greater physical demands. Thus, some Older Workers perform light duty jobs such as receptionists or greeters. Other Older Workers perform more arduous jobs such as warehouse worker or construction worker.

The study, of interest, focused on jobs with physical demands.

Old Age combined with greater physical demands were relevant with respect to work injuries. See P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

It was found when the occupational [physical] demands were greater there was an increase of risk of injury. Further, “[t]he relationship between age and claim-risk was strongest when occupational demands were highest.” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Is the Increase Risk Associated only with Musculoskeletal Injuries?

It was found that “Older age was associated with a higher risk of work injury claims for both musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal conditions,” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Is there a Difference Between Musculoskeletal vs. Non-Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Yes. “with a slightly stronger relationship observed for occupational physical demands and risk of musculoskeletal, compared with non-musculoskeletal, conditions.” P. M. Smith, J. Berecki-Gisolf, Age, occupational demands and the risk of serious work injury, Occupational Medicine, Volume 64, Issue 8, December 2014, Pages 571–576, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqu125

Are There any Laws or Rules in Workers’ Compensation that Assist Older Workers?

Yes. Age is factored as part of the Permanent Disability Rating Formula.
Per the Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities, California Workers’ Compensation Law provides for an age adjustment which provides for an increase in permanent disability for ages 42 and older. It also scales up with age and tops out at age 62. The age used in this assessment is the age on the date of injury. There is a table upon which you obtain the figures. It is on Pages 6-1-6-5. See SCHEDULE FOR RATING PERMANENT DISABILITIES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE LABOR CODE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA (2005)

Are There Any Rules that Do Not Assist Injured Workers?

Yes. There is a legal issue of apportionment. Apportionment is a tool allowed to reduce an Injured Workers’ Award.

Labor Code Section 4663, provides that “[a] physician shall make an apportionment determination by finding what approximate percentage of the permanent disability was caused by the direct result of injury arising out of and occurring in the course of employment and what approximate percentage of the permanent disability was caused by other factors both before and subsequent to the industrial injury, including prior industrial injuries. See Escobedo v. Marshalls, CNA Ins. Co., 70 Cal. Comp. Cases 604, 2005 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 71 (W.C.A.B. April 19, 2005). In Escobedo, the board indicated that apportionment of permanent disability can be made based on the preexisting arthritis in applicant’s knees was found acceptable. Note: Older Employees are more likely to have pre-existing arthritic processes which could allow for apportionment to be found.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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