NFPA’s new report, Patterns of Firefighter Fireground Injuries, indicates that seasonal factors are likely to influence the types of injuries experienced by firefighters. NFPA estimates that there were an estimated 30,290 firefighter fireground injuries each year during the five years from 2010 to 2014. The vast majority of injuries came in the course of fighting structure fires, with fires at residential properties accounting for almost three-quarters of the total (73%).
The leading causes of fireground injuries included overexertion/strain (26% of total), exposure to hazard (21%), slip or trip (13%), contact with object (13%), and fall (11%. The leading symptoms associated with these injuries involved strain or sprain (28%), pain only (13%), thermal burn (13%), cut or laceration (7%), and exhaustion/fatigue (6%).
Seasonal factors as a likely influence on injury events were most noticeable in hot and cold weather months, with January and July each recording the highest numbers of injuries. However, the leading injury events in January differed from those in July. Slips and trips caused the highest share of January injuries (21%), substantially higher than the portion of slips and trips in July (9%) or the annual average (13%). Injuries caused by falls were also proportionately higher in January (14% of annual total) than they were in July (8%) or the annual average (11%). In July, on the other hand, 34% of injuries were caused by overexertion or strain, compared to 18% in January and 26% of the annual average (26%), likely reflecting hot weather working conditions.
Information on seasonal factors in firefighter injury causation should be useful for firefighter health and safety officers in alerting crews to potential hazards and leading discussions about injury prevention strategies. Firefighters are likely to have little control over some potential interventions (such as staffing levels), but realizing that there are times when special attention is needed to proper hydration, lifting techniques, fitness assessments, fall hazard awareness, and other injury prevention practices may help mitigate seasonal influences on firefighter injury.