Firefighters in Southern California go through rigorous and physically demanding training to prepare for the emergencies they will face. If you are a firefighter, you might not pay enough attention to your own safety while you fight to save the lives of others. In addition to the risks of suffering severe burn injuries, the safety hazards involve many other threats.
You might be smart to remember that you will not be able to be an effective firefighter if you neglect your own health. There is no getting away from the fact that you will risk your life every time you are on a fire truck that goes through the fire station's bay doors, but learning about the additional risks might reduce exposure.
Exposure to carcinogens
Exposure to toxic chemicals is par for the course for firefighters, and authorities say this is the reason for cancer being the primary cause of firefighter deaths. Never go without the necessary personal protective equipment when you respond to a fire. Protective gear, including breathing equipment that is self-contained, can prevent exposure to carcinogens like diesel exhaust fumes, asbestos, UV radiation, benzo[a]pyrene and benzene. However, the risk remains even afterward because the contaminants remain on clothing and equipment, and thorough cleaning is necessary.
Decontamination procedures must be established and enforced. Post-incident procedures to follow include the following:
- Remain in your full PPE, including respiratory equipment, when you exit areas regarded as dangerous to life and health until completion of decontamination.
- Place contaminated gear in special bins, and avoid contact by other crewmembers.
- If you have to hand contaminated gear in for cleaning at the station, make sure you wear protection that includes goggles, mask and gloves.
Physical and mental health
Understanding the following challenges of your occupation might help you to remain safe:
- Understand your body's nutritional needs: Available information about nutrition to keep you fit and healthy can be contradicting. However, you know your body best, and you can work on establishing a diet that will benefit your health and provide in the nutritional needs of your body.
- Diabetes and heart disease threats: Once you manage your diet, you will also be set up to avoid obesity. It is a prevalent condition among firefighters, and it can cause high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes.
- Get enough sleep: Do your best to get enough sleep, even if it involves taking short naps. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, forgetfulness, anxiety, depression and heart disease.
- Alcohol and substance abuse as a coping method: Your job will bring about high stress levels, and you might be tempted to seek relief through the use of alcohol or drugs. Safety authorities say a significant percentage of firefighters become addicted to alcohol and a variety of other substances.
- Recognize your mental health problems: Dealing with extreme cases of danger and witnessing trauma can easily cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Such feelings are common among firefighters, and the failure to reach out and seek help can lead to thoughts of suicide.
As a firefighter, you are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. The California insurance program for injured workers has a list of injuries and illnesses that are presumed work-related when suffered by firefighters. You can utilize the skills of a workers' compensation attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of firefighters. These include compensation to cover medical expenses, lost income, disability benefits along with vocational rehabilitation.