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Investigating Fatalities, Injuries, and Near Misses
Some high risk departments such as the fire department require very skilled and talented work force. The workforce must be highly motivated and trained while the level of staff turnover should be. Retention of the skilled workforce helps in quality service delivery, competence and knowledge transfer. At the same time, the fire departments must ensure that the workforce has minimal incidence of injuries or loss of lives during an incident or emergency. Report by National Fire Protection Association (2005), shows that more than 100 fire fighters die yearly, in the line of duty while about 80,100 of them were in 2005 alone. The figures could be higher since the true figures of the actual deaths and injuries are not known. To ensure safety, fire units must come up with ways of investigating firefighter fatalities, injuries, and near misses. Effective and objective investigation in to the perennial issue of fire accidents, fatalities and other near misses imply that the development of a standard medical and well ness program would provide the fire department with a good program through which to reduce or minimize such incidents. This paper discusses ways to carry out such investigations and preventive mechanisms.
Firefighting job, like any other any has work-related problems. During the incidents or emergencies, many of them die while others get maimed or injured. Based on the occupational safety codes of conduct, the best way to solve these problems is by understanding their root causes. As such, the fatalities, injuries, and near misses must be fully investigated to get the facts, details and specific causes of the deaths or injuries. Firefighting incidents that involve injuries and/or deaths have to be fully investigated. Certain steps must be taken to investigate the fatalities, injuries, and near misses. The focus of such investigations should be as follows;Incident cause identification and definition.
The fire departments are high risk units owing to the many fire fatalities, accidental and other near misses that afflict the department world over. The realization that over many fire departments in the country lose a lot of their best and experienced workforce through the line of duty death especially due to heart attacks is raising concerns (Dunning, 2007). For example, between 2009 and 2014, it was reported that at least 22 fire department firefighter died in the Schenectady fire department alone after suffering heart attacks while off duty. This was, in addition, many more that were reported to have become permanently disabled. Other officers underwent different emergency surgeries particularly coronary artery bypass and could be at a greater risk of permanent disability.
Other investigations demonstrate that lack of experience and skills compound the magnitude of the fatalities. Skilled and experienced possess great cognitive skills and higher sense of thoughtfulness about safety and risk exposure.
Further, according to Dunning (2007), the medical condition as well as physical unfitness of the fire fighters affects the degree of firefighter fatalities, injuries, and near misses. This has been compounded by the fact that all the fire departments sampled across America in the study have no wellness of fitness program or standards for its members particularly higher risk duty firefighters (Dunning, 2007).
Development of actionable recommendation
Once the investigations have been carried out, the recommends steps must be taken to avoid a repeat of the same in the future. According to the National Fire Protection Association National Fire Protection Association (2006), for the deterrence of the firefighter deaths and injuries, the direct and indirect causes must understand. According to OSHA guidelines, the focus should not just be on the peculiar causes but identification of the basic causes. Due to the many fire accidents, fatalities and other near misses that afflicted many fire fighters in different parts of the country in general, there is a great need for the development of a national standardized physical, medical and fitness standard in the country for all the fire department. However, in case a fire department already has an existing program; it would be sound to have the program examined in order to align it with the national fitness and well ness program.
The actionable recommendations must look into the firefighters’ unit safety policies and decisions to develop better roadmap and strategies for reduced risks. The investigations must also take into account the firefighters’ unit and environmental factors. These factors relate to the operational issues, availability of modern tools and equipment, and overall organizational safety standards. The firefighting units can also get services of safety experts to assist in conducting reviews/audits of the ‘National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System and the National Fire Incident Reporting System’ (NFIRS). This will help them to tackle the firefighter injuries/fatalities issues, design better reporting mechanisms and capture the direct/indirect and basic factors that led to the occurrences.
When recruiting, the policies must take into account the medical history of the staff. The implementation of this policy should have two major parts, a medical and physical examination part and a fitness assessment part. In the medical part, all the medical related information or status of the members is established. These include their medical history, urinalysis, audiogram, chest x-ray, stress electrocardiogram, a complete and thorough examination of such medical attributes such as blood pressure, metabolically panel fasting such as establishing of total cholesterol levels, low density lipoprotein, high density lipoprotein (HDL) as well as other measures of glucose values. In addition, other medical tests such as cancer screening must be undertaken (Dodson, 2007). These involve prostate specific antigen testing for men especially those aged 50 and over and coming from families with a history of cancer such as African American or have been known to have a higher risk for the disease. In addition, mammogram would need to be administered to all the women aged 40 and above (David, 2013).
The fire fighters wellness and fitness program entails fitness assessment. Different clinical test would have to be administered in order to ascertain the aerobic capacity of the members through the use of stress electrocardiogram outcomes, flexibility test such as by use of sit and reach test, the muscular endurance level of the members such as by use of different physical activities and exercise such as crunches and push-ups, their muscular strength such as the use of a hand grip strength test in addition to a test of body composition through such test as a skin caliper test (Dodson, 2007).
The recommendations must also take into account the personal factors. There is a correlation between personal fitness, and fatalities, injuries, and near misses. If all the fire departments in the country were to initiate wellness and other fitness programs for their fire fighters, the fire fatalities and accidents could be reduced by more than half. This investigation in to the fire fatalities, accidents and other near misses has led to the proposal that the best way to significantly address and reduce the many fire accidents, fatalities, and other near misses would be development and the adoption of a comprehensive wellness and fitness program for all the fire fighters. A good medical wellness and fitness program has the potential to help the fire departments avoid as well as prevent the many injury or heart attack incidents related to the execution or work stress. Such hazards constitute a line of duty death as many of them are incurred while the victims are operating at fire sites. As a result, a sound medical wellness and fit ness program for such a department requires that each member of the staff undergoes a thorough medical examination on yearly basis to ascertain that the programs are in compliance with the occupational; safety and health administration (OSHA) standards. However, it should be noted that the program does not carry or address any nutrition related problems, install any form of stress reduction of entail any method of physical conditioning.
The officers’ survival tactics and skills development must also be taken into account. This calls for an objective training program. The program is conducted by assigning a point value to each fire fighter before rating them for superior, excellent, good, fair, poor or very poor scores scale. At the end of the whole program, the scores are added together in order to establish a total final fitness score that allows the rating of each fire fighter.
Information dissemination and prevention strategies
Information about the incidents’ investigation must be disseminated to enhance knowledge sharing and reduction of occurrences. This is because the loss of the officers complicates the units’ operations. The departments are faced with a sharp decline in the number of people joining such department while, the number of people to be served has been on the rise.Platforms such as websites, fliers, poster and mass media can be used to share such information. To conduct future and past incidents’ investigations well, the available relevant information must be well documented and shared in a well-timed and apposite manner.
Chen, M. (2005). Wellness and fitness training for Urban Evacuation. Maryland, University of
David, W. (2013). How to implement a wellness fitness program. Retrieved from
Dodson, D, W. (2007). Fire department incident safety officer. New York, Cengage
Dunning, A. et al. (2007). Train wreck and chlorine spill in Graniteville, South Carolina:
Transportation effects and lessons in small-town capacity for no-notice evacuation. Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 130-135.
National Fire Protection Association (2006). Firefighter Injuries for 2005. NFPA Journal,
Scott, D. (2009). Developing a firefighting wellness/fitness program. Retrieved
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