207750 Review and Analysis of Firefighter Line-of-Duty Fatalities

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kumar Kunadharaju, MD, MPH, CHES , Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Todd D. Smith, PhD, CSP, ARM , Department of Aeronautics, Occupational Safety & Health Discipline, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Athens, GA
David M. DeJoy, PhD , Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
The occupational fatality rate for firefighters is four times greater than that of the general working population, and there has been little improvement in the past 25 years. In this presentation, we summarize results from an analysis of firefighter fatalities (N = 127) investigated by NIOSH between 2004 and 2007. As part of the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP), NIOSH conducts onsite investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to define the characteristics of line-of-duty deaths, develop recommendations for prevention, and disseminate prevention strategies to the fire service. NIOSH disseminates findings from individual investigations, and our purpose was to collate findings from three years of investigations and to identify common causes, event sequences, and priority recommendations. Since NIOSH uses a decision algorithm to select cases for investigation, we compared NIOSH investigations against all firefighter fatalities using US Fire Administration data. NIOSH cases were generally representative of all fatalities in term of demographics, work activities, and cause of death. Between 2004 and 2007, NIOSH investigated 69 fatalities involving medical conditions and 58 cases involving traumatic injury. These investigations produced a total of 685 recommendations for corrective action. The most frequent recommendations for medical cases involved pre-placement/periodic medical examinations, wellness/fitness, and clearance for duty. Trauma cases produced a wider array of recommendations, but recommendations involving pre-incident planning, incident command, communications, emergency equipment and motor vehicle safety (seatbelts, traffic laws, etc.) were especially frequent. Root cause analysis points to a subset of organizational vulnerabilities (or “hotspots”) shared by many firefighting organizations.

Learning Objectives:
Measurable Objectives – Attendees will be able to: • Identify firefighter fatality determinants and the distribution of fatal events across the firefighter community • Delineate the most pertinent recommendations elicited from firefighter fatality investigations to prevent future firefighter fatalities • Formulate multi-level interventions aimed at reducing fatalities based upon the identified “hot-spots” and organizational vulnerabilities.

Keywords: Occupational Safety, Occupational Injury and Death

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an MD degree and I am currently completing my Masters in Public Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.