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Firefighting facts: Illnesses and injuries on the job

Fighting fires is a very dangerous job, and the men and women who work in the field are courageous people who save lives and homes every day. Firefighting is not without risk, and many of these people are hurt every year in the line of duty. As of July 2013, an average of 31 firefighters had been killed on the job in each of the four previous years. Another 14,700 had suffered work-related injuries and illnesses.

In 2011, 28 firefighters were fatally injured on the job. This was a decrease in the number of firefighters killed per year when you see that there had been 29 percent more deaths in 2003, but the number is still too high. Safe equipment can help, but the unpredictability of a building on fire still makes the job dangerous.

What are the most common reasons for fatal injury or illness? Fires were the cause of 36 percent of all fatal injuries. Another 29 percent were related to transportation incidents. In 2011, half of the events were caused when a building, elements of a structure, or structure collapsed on the firefighters inside. On the roads, eight fatal transportation incidents took place that year. Five were due to roadway accidents, while one was aircraft based and another two involved pedestrians.

The most common reason for injuries or illnesses that weren't fatal included overexertion, falls, slips, trips, and contact with objects or equipment. It was most common for firefighters to injure the lower extremities, but the trunk and upper extremities were often also injured in accidents.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Firefighter Factsheet | July 2013," accessed Jan. 11, 2016

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