Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Beyond the fireground: injuries in the fire service
  1. Gerald S Poplin1,
  2. Robin B Harris1,
  3. Keshia M Pollack2,
  4. Wayne F Peate3,
  5. Jefferey L Burgess3
  1. 1Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  2. 2Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Division of Community, Environment and Policy, University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  1. Correspondence to Gerald S Poplin, 1656 E. Mabel, PO Box 24515, Tucson, AZ 85724, USA; poplin{at}


Background Although firefighting and emergency medical services are high-risk professions, few studies have identified the aetiology of injury in the fire service beyond the fireground.

Methods Data were collected for work-related injuries in a medium-sized metropolitan fire department. In a descriptive study, the factors explored included the nature of injury, agent, mechanism, body location, environment, abbreviated injury scale (AIS), functional capacity index (FCI) and lost time status.

Results From 2004 to 2009, the annual injury incidence rate averaged 17.7 per 100 employees. One-third of all injuries (32.9%) resulted from physical exercise activities, while patient transport, training drills and fireground operations resulted in 16.9%, 11.1% and 10.2% of injuries, respectively. For all job operations, sprains and strains were the most prevalent type of injury (40.2–85.2%), followed by contusions and lacerations (7.7–26.1%). The third most common injury was related to the conventional hazards of the individual job operation. Most injuries (n=862, 95.6%) were minor in severity, while 4.3% of injuries were classified as having some impedance of normal function (FCI 3). Moderate injuries (AIS 2) were infrequent, but comprised a greater proportion of fireground injuries (8.7%) than the other activities (1.0–4.1%); however, lost time injuries were more frequent for patient transport (46.1%) than other operations (22.0–29.1%).

Conclusions Physical exercise, patient transport and training activities were responsible for a greater percentage of injuries than fireground operations. Focused efforts to improve the characterisation of risks during these more diverse set of work processes should help guide the development of salient strategies for injury prevention.

  • Epidemiology
  • firefighting
  • government
  • health education
  • job tasks
  • occupational
  • occupational injury
  • physical exercise
  • policy
  • qualitative
  • recreation/sports
  • surveillance
  • systematic review
  • violence

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding This study was supported by grant 5R01OH009469 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CDC/NIOSH). The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC/NIOSH.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the University of Arizona Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.