In 2017, in the line of duty, approximately 58,835 firefighter injuries occurred in the United States.
The varying and complex environments that firefighters work in put them at risk for several injuries. All firefighters should be aware of the possible injuries that they may experience on the job.
Sprains & Strains
Approximately 48 percent of reported firefighter injuries were strains and sprains. A sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched. This injury can be minor, or it can make it difficult to put any weight on the affected joint. Other symptoms may include swelling, pain, and bruising.
A strain occurs when a tendon or muscle or torn or stretched. This injury can occur gradually or suddenly. The symptoms include pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.
Smoke or Gas Inhalation
About seven percent of injuries fell into this category in 2017. When a firefighter is in a fire, if they run out of oxygen or remove their protective gear, inhalation occurs. When a firefighter inhales smoke, the following are possible:
- Shortness of breath
- Noisy breathing
- Decreased alertness
- Skin changes due to reduced oxygen
- Chest pain
If there is gas present in the environment where firefighters are working, gas inhalation may cause the following:
- Dizziness and headaches
- Memory problems
- Irregular breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Lack of coordination
This type of injury includes heat exhaustion or frostbite. About five percent of injuries were reported as thermal stress. Heat exhaustion is possible due to the very hot environments that firefighters go into to extinguish a fire or help victims to escape a blaze. The symptoms may include:
- Heavy sweating
- Dizziness or faintness
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Moist, cool skin
- Low blood pressure when standing up
Frostbite is a tissue injury that can occur when someone is exposed to freezing temperatures. This is a risk for firefighters, especially when they are putting out a fire in cold temperatures. Exposed skin is at the highest risk, but even with gloves on, it is possible for frostbite to occur, especially if the gloves become wet. The symptoms may include:
- The skin becomes cold and has a prickling sensation
- White, grayish-yellow, red or bluish-white skin
- Joint and muscle stiffness causing clumsiness
- Waxy-looking or hard skin
- In severe cases, blisters may occur after rewarming
Help for Firefighters
Firefighters who experience injuries on the job may quality for workers’ compensation. Working with a workers’ compensation attorney helps them to more easily navigate the legal terrain related to these types of claims. This type of lawyer can also help them to ensure that they get the full compensation that they are entitled to if they have a claim.
Taking the proper precautions is imperative for firefighters to reduce their risk of injury as much as possible. Should an injury occur, talking to a workers’ compensation lawyer can help people to get the help and support that they need.