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.

EXERTIONAL HEAT SYNDROME: HEATED WORK ENVIRONMENTS, WORK INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Heat Exertion can produce serious injuries in the workplace. The medical condition is commonly known as Exertional Heat Illness (ESI.) Heat Illnesses are multi-causal. Human’s body temperatures can be elevated by a number of factors. First, there is the heat and humidity in the environment. Second, there is the clothing and equipment being used by the worker. Third, there is the nature, extent and the duration of the activities.

This article is focused towards the Heat Exertion as opposed to the Heat Exposure. Note: Heat Exertional Illness is a huge concern for military. Thus, this matter has been studied within that context. Heat Exertion is a concern for all military personnel. Even Military Working Dogs have been studied. Predicting military working dog core temperature during exertional heat strain: Validation of a Canine Thermal Model Catherine O’Brien William J.Tharion Anthony J.Karis Heather M.Sullivan https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtherbio.2020.102603Get rights and content

In the civilian setting, there are also various occupations that involve serious issues that can bring rise to heat exertional illness.

This article will discuss Heat Exertion Illness, risk factors involved with HEI, the nature and extent of injuries arising from heat exertion, and how it can be addressed within a workers’ compensation setting.

What Is Exertional Heat Illness (EHI)?

Exertional Heat illnesses (EHI) is essentially a variety of medical conditions that may occur during physical exertion that is performed in hot and humid environments. This can be the case when there is performance of strenuous physical activities for extended durations in hot environments.

In the civilian workforce, HEI may impact occupations such as Agriculture, Construction Workers, Police Officers, and Refinery Workers.

For instance, with respect to Wildland Fire Fighters, a study noted the nature and extent of the clothing and equipment that they carry. The study noted that “WLFFs wear standard fire equipment: Nomex long-sleeve shirt and pants, mid-calf leather logger boots, a 100% cotton short-sleeve undershirt, leather gloves, hard hat, and a 12 to 20 kg pack containing food, water, safety gear, and work tools.” High Work Output Combined With High Ambient Temperatures Caused Heat Exhaustion in a Wildland Firefighter Despite High Fluid Intake John S.Cuddy MS Brent C. Ruby PhD https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wem.2011.01.008

Why is EHI a Serious Concern?

Due to the fact that EHI can cause a variety of medical conditions, there is also a wide range of medical problems that EHI can cause.

Mild forms of EHI can include heat cramps. Severe forms of EHI can include heat stroke. Severe EHI can lead to multiorgan damage and death. Alele FO, Malau-Aduli BS, Malau-Aduli AEO, J Crowe M. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness in the Military: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 25;17(19):E7037. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197037. PMID: 32993024.

Does Body Temperature Play a Role?

Yes. Body Core Temperature plays a role in the severity of the injury. Temperatures less than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Farenheit) percent are associated with milder symptoms and temperatures greater than 40 degrees Celsius brought on more serious symptoms which provided central nervous system symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Alele FO, Malau-Aduli BS, Malau-Aduli AEO, J Crowe M. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness in the Military: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 25;17(19):E7037. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197037. PMID: 32993024.

What are the Main Risk Factors in EHI?

There are a variety of risk factors that can impact EHI. The main risk factors in the study were gender, physical fitness, obesity, previous history of heat illness, motivation, hot environmental conditions, and service unit. Alele FO, Malau-Aduli BS, Malau-Aduli AEO, J Crowe M. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness in the Military: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 25;17(19):E7037. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197037. PMID: 32993024.

“[T]these risk factors into three groups—host (individual physiologically limiting), environmental and organizational (training organization) factors. Supra.

Are There Risk Factors of Interest?

Yes.

Females were more likely to experience EHI than males.

High Body Mass Index (BMI) individuals are more likely to experience EHI.

Lower Physical Fitness individuals are more likely to experience EHI.

Over Motivated Individuals are more likely to experience EHI. One reason being is that they may not pace themselves.

A prior history of heat illness makes individuals more susceptible to heat stroke or severe heat illness.

Hot conditions such as summer seasons and in hot weather conditions make individuals at greater risk of EHI.

Some Units, task dependent and equipment dependent groups, can have increased risk of EHI versus other units. . Alele FO, Malau-Aduli BS, Malau-Aduli AEO, J Crowe M. Epidemiology of Exertional Heat Illness in the Military: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 25;17(19):E7037. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197037. PMID: 32993024.

If a Worker is Suffering from a Heat-Related Illness, What Should They Do?

If the Injured Worker was exposed to excessive heat in the workforce, they can consider filing a workers’ compensation claim. This would allow them to claim medical care, monetary benefits in the form of temporary and permanent disability benefits. Also, vocational rehabilitation benefits may be indicated. If a fatality situation, a death claim for the dependents may be indicated.

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.

CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTERS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: FIRE FIGHTERS, WORK INJURIES AND THE MOST RECENT RAND STUDY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

California Firefighters are tasked with some of the most difficult jobs.   California is perhaps the Forest Fire Capitol of the United States or even the World!  Firefighters provide a vital services in ensuring that we live in safety.

In performing their duties, Firefighters get hurt and have industrial claims.   California Firefighters’ work injuries have been studied by the Rand Corporation and they have prepared a recent report. The study is entitled The Frequency and Economic Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders for California Firefighters: Trends and Outcomes of the Past Decade, Dworsky, Seabury, and Broten.

This article will address the most recent Rand Corporation Study and what it means to Firefighter and their careers with respect to their work injuries.

What Is the Rand Corporation? What Did It Study?

Rand Corporation is commonly known as a “think tank.”   According to Rand, it “was established over 70 years ago to strengthen public policy through research and analysis. Over seven decades, our research teams have answered the difficult questions and generated actionable insights by combining the very best analytical tools and methods with a distinct, interdisciplinary approach.”  They are frequently used by government, such as the State of California to do research.   The term “public policy” implies that their results can impact laws and proposed legislation.   For our purposes, their conclusions may become the impetus for new changes in workers’ compensation law.

The Rand Corporation Study, with respect to California Firefighters was done with “[t]he purpose of this report was to provide new information to policymakers about the frequency, nature, and consequences of firefighter injuries in California, with a particular focus on MSDs.”  In other words, the State of California may use the data to change workers’ compensation law with respect to Firefighters, or Fire Departments may change their risk management approaches to attempt to reduce claims.

What Did the Rand Study Find?

Highest Rate of Injuries

The Rand Study found that “firefighters are significantly more likely to be injured than workers in other occupations.”

Highest Rate of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

The Rand Study found that “ a larger share of those injuries are MSDs.”

Specifically, we found that nearly half (47 percent) of firefighter injuries are MSDs, compared to 38 percent for police officers, 42 percent for other public-sector workers, 37 percent in our private-sector comparison group with similar job requirements to firefighters, and 42 percent for other private-sector workers.

Spine and Knee Injures Are More Common Than Upper Extremity Injuries

The Study found that there were “differences in the nature and cause of firefighter injuries. Compared to other occupations, injuries to firefighters are less likely to involve the upper extremities and significantly more likely to involve lower extremities or the trunk. Strains are the modal cause of injury for firefighters.”

Burn Injuries Are More Significant Than Other Occupations

The Rand Study found that “burns are significantly more common among firefighters than other workers but still represent a small share of injuries (6 percent) in comparison to MSDs.”

Cumulative Trauma vs. Specific Dates of Injury

The Rand Study found that “a lower share of firefighter injuries were reported as being due to cumulative trauma than workers in other occupations.”

Psychiatric Injuries for Firefighters

The Rand Study shows that the dated indicated that “firefighters and police have similar rates of psychiatric comorbidities. However, perhaps surprisingly, incidence rates of psychological injuries—including PTSD—for public safety workers are substantially lower than rates observed among other public-sector workers or comparable private-sector workers.”

Note: as noted in the study, Firefighters may carry with them a stigma concerning mental health issues.   Firefighters with mental health concerns may seek treatment privately rather than file a work injury claim.

Is There Any Good News for Firefighters with respect to the Study?

There was some good news in the Rand Study for Firefighters. The economic consequences of musculoskeletal disorders was less serve than for other similar occupations.   It was noted the Fire Departments appear to do better than other employers, including other public sector employers, at retaining Injured Workers.   Also, SB 863, a recent law change, provided for higher ratings for MSD injuries for Firefighters.  Finally, there was no evidence found that treatment caps for chiropractic, occupational therapy, or physical medicine treatments did not substantially impact most Firefighters.

What is there to Make of the Rand Study?

In light of the findings, it would appear that there would be no effort to try to increase additional indemnity to Firefighters.   Further,  it would appear that there would be no effort to change treatment protocol as well.  Perhaps, injury rate reduction would be explored.   In sum, risk management for the departments may try to take steps to reduce injuries.  Any reduction may be difficult to achieve due to the job’s physical demands.

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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