Firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs and other first responders are the daily heroes of America, saving lives at the risk of their own. That risk is very real, and not just for those running into burning buildings or gunfire.
While such extreme situations may be the deadliest, everyday tasks also come with high rates of accident and injury, shares the CDC. These injuries can be just as life-changing and eligible for workers’ compensation as severe physical harm is.
- Strains and sprains: The job of emergency responders is very physically demanding, often leading to sprains, muscle strains, overexertion and musculoskeletal pain. Those who do heavy lifting, such as paramedics and firefighters, also sustain back injuries.
- Falls: Firefighters are at most risk for falling from ladders and buildings, but others can fall as well. Falls often lead to broken bones, fractures and head trauma.
- Cuts and bruises: Sometimes those who emergency personnel are trying to aid (or apprehend) physically assault their helpers. Cuts and bruises can also be the result of equipment and other objects.
- Motor vehicle accidents: Responders must drive quickly to arrive at emergency scenes. Other motorists may not follow proper protocol in getting out of the way or may be distracted and not notice the sirens and lights. Whatever the reason, it ends in a preventable accident with the emergency vehicle.
- Exposure to diseases: EMTs and other health care workers are subject to exposure to infectious diseases, mostly from needlesticks.
- Exposure to toxic materials: Part of the job may be using or being near hazardous substances, such as asbestos or gas fumes, which can cause cancer and other diseases.
These occupations are not only physically challenging but also mentally and emotionally so. First responders are likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, depression and stress. These issues affect overall physical health and ability to perform work tasks, making them just as important to address as visible injuries.