Firefighters go into danger every putting their bodies on the line for others.
From smoke inhalation and physical trauma to burns and other traumatic injuries, a firefighter’s job often results in a wide variety of health concerns.
In this article, we take a broad look at the most common injuries that firefighters face on the job. Then, we explore resources available to help compensate for those injuries.
The Risks of Being a Firefighter
Firefighters are heroes of public safety, always ready to rush into the fiery abyss to save lives and property. Like all heroic acts, there is a fair share of risk involved. These brave men and women contend with extreme heat, flames, smoke, and hazardous chemicals.
What follows is a deeper exploration of how these risks can affect a firefighter’s health.
Exposure to extreme temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion. This happens when the body overheats and cool itself down, resulting in symptoms such as:
In extreme forms, heat exhaustion will require medical treatment and will not go away on its own.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water and salt through sweat. This leads to symptoms such as:
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes
- Decreased urine output
In less severe situations, you can beat dehydration with rest and a lot of water. In extreme circumstances, life-threatening. They may require hospitalization, constant monitoring, and fluids given through an IV.
Other heat-related injuries include heat cramps and heat stroke, which can both be serious concerns.
Strains and Sprains
Firefighters' duties require them to carry heavy equipment, climb ladders, and engage in repetitive motions, making them prone to musculoskeletal strains and sprains. Even the simplest movements like bending over or reaching for something can lead to debilitating injuries.
A sprain occurs when the ligaments and capsule surrounding a joint stretch and tear. Common areas for sprains include the ankles, wrists, and knees. Generally, sprains are not life-threatening, but they can be quite painful and limit mobility for days or weeks.
Strains occur in muscles or tendons. They are the result of overstretching or overuse, and strains cause intense pain, swelling, and decreased mobility. Treatment may include rest, physical therapy, or even surgery in severe cases.
Such injuries can be debilitating and impact a firefighter’s ability to perform their duties.
Smoke inhalation is one of the most common injuries firefighters face, and it can cause long-term damage to their lungs.
Firefighters often encounter hazardous materials while extinguishing fires.
There are many potential consequences for contact with dangerous chemicals, including:
- Acute poisoning
- Respiratory issues
- Digestive problems
- Skin and eye irritation
- Neurological symptoms
- Severe allergic reactions
- Damage to internal organs
Obviously, exposure to fire and explosions can lead to burn injuries.
First-degree burns happen on the upper layer of the skin. With treatment, they can heal well and may not leave a scar.
Second-degree burns penetrate into the second layer of skin. They cause redness, swelling, and severe pain. They should be treated soon to avoid further injury.
A third-degree burn can penetrate all the way to the tissue underneath the skin. These are considered very serious, and they require immediate medical attention.
Fourth-degree burns are life-threatening, as they can penetrate all the way to muscle or even bone.
Firefighters can also suffer psychological injury from witnessing or experiencing traumatic events. They are regularly exposed to high-stress situations that can cause PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Psychological trauma can have a long-lasting impact and lead to changes in behavior, relationship issues, and a decreased quality of life.
Workers’ Compensation for Firefighters in California
The state offers a comprehensive workers' compensation system for firefighters hurt on the job.
These benefits can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability payments. At its best, workers’ comp ensures that firefighters and their families can focus on recovery without worrying about a financial burden.
Additionally, California has specific laws addressing the challenges firefighters face, such as presumptive disability. This program recognizes that a certain risk of illnesses and injury is inherent to the job. It allows firefighters to receive benefits without the need to prove that the job directly caused their condition.
Samra Dhillon & Associates is here to help you file for the workers’ comp you deserve, and we can also assist with denials and appeals. For a free consultation, call us at (916) 571-1550 or contact us online.