FIREFIGHTER INJURY FREQUENCY AND WORKER’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In California, the State, Counties, Municipalities, and Cities employ Firefighters.  Firefighting, like other safety positions, are dangerous occupations which have significant risk of injury.   Firefighters are expected to and are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to save lives.  Due to their injury rates, data concerning Firefighter Work Injuries have been studied as to the nature of their work injuries and their injury rates.  A recent RAND study provides some insight into the challenges that Firefighters face.

What Are Firefighters’ Work Injury Rates Compared to Others?

Compared to other occupations, Firefighters have high injury rates.  Their rate is slightly less Police Officers.   Between 2005-1017, the rates were 200 per 1000 workers for Firefighters.  This rate is compared to 35 to 50 injuries per 1000 for all workers. Dworsky M, Seabury SA, Broten N. The Frequency and Economic Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders for California Firefighters: Trends and Outcomes over the Past Decade. Rand Health Q. 2021;9(2):4. Published 2021 Aug 16.

What Are the Most Significant Injuries That Firefighters Sustain?

Of all types of injuries, 47 percent of all Firefighter injuries were musculoskeletal in nature.  Supra.

What Body Parts Do Firefighters Injure?

Compare to other occupations, Firefighters sustain more trunk, ie spine, and lower extremity injuries versus upper extremity injuries than other occupations.  Supra.

What Are the Causes of Injury for Firefighters?

Strains are the most common cause of injury for Firefighters.   Also, burn injuries are more common for firefighters. They represent 6 percent of their injuries.  Supra.

Do Firefighters Seek Psychiatric Treatment for Musculoskeletal Disorder Injuries?

It was found that there was no difference between psychiatric issues for firefighter versus workers in similar occupations.  Supra.

The caveat to this issue is whether Firefighters use their own health insurance to address psychiatric issues rather than workers’ compensation.  Further, there is also the stigma problem.  Firefighters may not want it known to Management and co-workers that they have mental health issues.

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.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #8: CAN A FIRE CAPTAIN FINGER LIABILITY ON A PROPERTY OWNER FOR A WORK INJURY?

In Los Angeles,  a horrific property fire happened at a Vape Shop which included an explosion. As a result, a number of firefighters sustained injuries trying to put out the fire.  A Fire Captain sustained serious injuries which included the loss of fingers.

It was reported that he is now suing the property owner for negligence.   The allegations of negligence concerned the owner’s storage of both nitrous oxide and butane containers in excess.  Dailymail.com

Was the Fire Captain’s Injuries a Workers’ Compensation Injury?

Yes.  The Fire Captain was in the course and scope of his duties when putting out the fire.  Therefore, he is entitled to pursue a workers’ compensation case.

If the Fire Captain Filed the Civil Suit Against the Property Owner, Can He Still File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes.  Many Work Injuries are caused by Third Parties. A Third Party is someone other than the Employer.   Based upon the alleged facts,  the Fire Captain could pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit. He did not have to choose between one or the other.

Can an Injured Worker Collect Separately From Both a Workers’ Compensation and a Civil Claim?

Not necessarily.  Many times, the Insurance Company for the Workers’ Compensation will join in the Civil Lawsuit.  This is called subrogation.  They, like the Injured Worker, are entitled to collect a recovery from Third Party that was liable for the work injury.  The division of the proceeds from a Civil Action would be dependent on the facts. For example, if the Workers’ Compensation Insurance paid out a lot of money in medical care, their lien on the Third Party case may be quite substantial.  They would command a considerable amount.

Is There Any Special Benefits a Fire Captain Can Receive from This Work Injury?

Yes.  There are two special benefits.   First, the Fire Captain is entitled to salary continuation for up to one year pursuant to Labor Code Section 4850.  Second, the Fire Captain, due to finger amputations would be entitled 240 weeks of TTD benefits as opposed to the 104 week limitation.  This is per LC 4656.

Why Would the Fire Captain File a Civil Claim?

A Civil Claim provides for different types of damages.  For example, wage loss would be a factor.  In light of the Fire Captain’s loss of fingers, he may have substantial wage loss as his firefighting career may be over.

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.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #7:  WHEN LIFE SAVERS LOSE THEIR LIVES

A California Firefighter recently died when battling the State’s second largest wildfire, the Dixie Fire.

While the individual who died was not identified, it would appear that he worked for CALFIRE and was an Assistant Fire Engine Operator with the Lassen National Forest.   It was reported that he suffered from a previous illness. Foxnews.com

What Type of Claim Can Be Filed When A Worker Dies?

In the event of a death, the Injured Worker’s dependents may pursue death benefits.  Dependency can vary depending upon a variety of factors.   These factors include the amount of support provided, the dependent’s age and the dependent’s marital status.

If Someone Had a Pre-Existing Medical Condition and Dies On the Job, Would That Impact a Death Claim?

Possibly. If work had a causative role in the death, then death benefits would be indicated.  If work had absolutely no causative role, then a death claim may not be viable.  The causation decision is made per medical opinion and legal statutes.  For example, for certain firefighters, a heart presumption applies.  This presumption can impact the medical provider’s opinion on causation.

For Firefighters, Are There Special Benefits in the Event of Death Claims?

For certain Safety Members, there are special benefits that apply.  For certain dependents, they may be eligible for a special death benefits retirement through CALPERS. In that circumstance, a dependent will have to choose a special death benefit pension versus workers’ compensation death claim.   Other dependents may have to pursue death benefits via the workers’ compensation appeals board. See Jones v. CDCR Kern Valley State Prison, 2014 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 461

Are Burial Expenses Provided?

Yes. Workers’ compensation death cases provide for burial expenses.   The current amount of the expenses is $10,000.00.

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.

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.

9.3Edward Jay Singer
Edward Jay SingerReviewsout of 22 reviews