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.

YOUNGER WORKERS AND WORK INJURIES:  YOUTHFUL WORKERS, SPECIAL CONCERNS FOR YOUNGER WORKERS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful”

Supertramp

Does Age matter?  Yes.  Younger Workers get injured at different rates than Older Workers.  A recent study brought light onto the issue of Age as a factor with respect to Work Injuries.

Younger Workers make up a significant number of the workforce.  Adolescents and Young Adults represent approximately 13% of the U.S. workforce. Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, Hendricks KJ, Menger-Ogle LM, Okun AH. Nonfatal Occupational Injuries to Younger Workers — United States, 2012–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1204–1209. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a3external icon.

As a result of this, like all workers, they sustain work-related injuries. Per a study, it was estimated that “3.2 million nonfatal injuries to young workers were treated in hospital emergency departments, with the highest rates among workers aged 18–19 years. Data from 2018 indicate that the leisure and hospitality industry [i.e. food service such as McDonalds hotels, and amusement parks] contributed the highest percentage of injuries to workers aged 15–17 years requiring at least 1 day away from work.” Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, Hendricks KJ, Menger-Ogle LM, Okun AH. Nonfatal Occupational Injuries to Younger Workers — United States, 2012–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1204–1209. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a3external icon.

This article will discuss the rates of injury for Younger Workers, the implications for Younger Workers who sustain work injuries, the special concerns a Workers’ Compensation Attorney has with respect to these claims, and how the Workers’ Compensation Systems addresses Younger Workers’ Permanent Disability.

What Was the Study?

The study  that was done looked into nonfatal occupational injuries of Younger Workers within the United States during the years 2012 to 2018.  Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, Hendricks KJ, Menger-Ogle LM, Okun AH. Nonfatal Occupational Injuries to Younger Workers — United States, 2012–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1204–1209. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a3external icon.

How Does Age Make a Difference?

Yes. It was found that Younger Workers, aged 15-24, experienced a higher rate of job-related injury versus Adult Workers, aged 25-44.  Supra.

Are There Any Interesting Facts Concerning the Injury Rates?

AGE RANGE WITH HIGHEST RATE OF INJURY: The highest injury rate (404 per 10,000 FTE) occurred among workers aged 18–19 years.

MALE VERSUS FEMALE: Within each of the four age categories, the rate of injury was 1.4 to 1.5 times higher among males than among females.

YOUNGER VERSUS MIDDLE AGED WORKERS:  Annual rates of injuries among young workers aged 15–24 years were 1.2–2.3 times higher than those for workers aged 25–44 years. Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, Hendricks KJ, Menger-Ogle LM, Okun AH. Nonfatal Occupational Injuries to Younger Workers — United States, 2012–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1204–1209. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6935a3external icon.

How Do Young People Get Hurt?

Younger Workers can get injured in a variety of ways.  One of the reasons why Younger Workers get injured is that they are often learning on the job. This makes them more susceptible to injuries.

For example,

“Contact with objects and equipment was the leading cause of occupational ED-treated injuries among all age groups examined, with rates of injuries ranging from 64 per 10,000 FTE among workers aged 25–44 years to 182 per 10,000 FTE among workers aged 18–19 years.” Supra.

“Lacerations and punctures were the most common type of ED-treated injuries reported among workers aged <25 years, with injury rates ranging from 66 to 99 per 10,000 FTE, “ Supra.

To the contrary, it should be noted that

“strains and sprains were most common among workers aged 25–44 years (injury rate of 47 per 10,000 FTE).” Supra.

Why are Work Injuries to Younger Workers a Concern?

One of the big concerns with respect to Younger Workers in California is the issue of lifetime medical care.   Young Workers, to some extent, are more able to recover from injuries versus Older Workers.

Some injuries that have long term implications.   There are injuries which can cause arthritis.   Arthritis can take decades to become a problem for the worker. Therefore, Younger Worker may need medical care decades after the injury happened.  Many Young Workers do not understand or appreciate this fact.   This is an issue of discussion concerning settlement of their case.

How Does the California Workers’ Compensation System View Younger Workers’ Permanent Disability?

Younger Workers’ Permanent Disability is not viewed as significant as older workers’ permanent disability.  For the same injury, a Younger Worker will receive less money than an Older Worker.

How is a Younger Worker’s Age Factored into Permanent Disability?

In the SCHEDULE FOR RATING PERMANENT DISABILITIES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE LABOR CODE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA (2005) , there is a provision for adjusting with respect to the Injured Worker’s age.

One of the steps in the permanent disability rating formula is to make an age adjustment.  Using a Table, a Younger Worker’s Permanent Disability is lowered via the rating adjustment.   See Schedule at P. 1-9.

In sum, the Schedule has a specific table that is used in a permanent disability rating formula to lower the disability rating. The disability rating being lowered translates into less money for the Injured Worker.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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