Without a doubt, firefighters are in one of the most dangerous lines of work there is. A report by the National Fire Protection Association published in late 2020 estimated that almost 61,000 firefighters had been injured in the line of duty in 2019 – up 4% from the previous year. That number didn’t take into account the more than 7,600 documented exposures to infectious diseases.
While people who aren’t familiar with the job might assume that the most common injuries involve burns and smoke inhalation. However, firefighters have protective clothing and gear designed to prevent those things.
Fireground vs. non-fireground injuries
The leading cause of “fireground” injuries, where firefighters are most likely to suffer harm, was strain or overexertion. These accounted for nearly 30% of all injuries and 40% of fireground injuries. The next most common fireground injuries involved slips, trips, falls and jumps (20%).
Injuries categorized as “non-fireground” included those suffered:
- Traveling to or from a call (including crashed with other vehicles)
- During training
- At non-fire emergencies
- During other on-duty activities
While firefighters are at risk for exposure to fire and smoke, they also face risks from the chemicals in the products used to fight fires. Further, they’re often going into buildings where they risk exposure to asbestos and other toxins released into the air and spread through the smoke and soot.
Many of the strain and overexertion injuries are caused by the heavy equipment they have to wear and carry as they fight fires. While some firefighters may consider the pain that accompanies these injuries part of the job, they can cause lifelong medical issues that can be severely limiting.
That’s why it’s best to get them addressed sooner rather than later. Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to help cover the cost of treatment and lost wages. If you’re having difficulty getting the benefits you need, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.