Addressing the physical risks that come with firefighting
Few jobs present more dangers than what firefighters face on a day to day basis. The stress goes beyond the frustration that comes with any job. Their duties are perilous and involve everything from climbing ladders and pulling hoses to entering burning homes and buildings. The risks and challenges involved in their day-to-day responsibilities take a physical toll.
Firefighting is not just a job. Anyone who takes on the responsibilities will likely claim that they are called to the profession. For them, it’s a lifestyle. Firefighters are on call 24 hours a day and must drop whatever they are doing to put themselves in danger to help people in danger.
The litany of injuries that firefighters can and do suffer is seemingly endless. Yet, in the course of rescuing people from harm, they must “power through,” ignoring the injury to provide what is often life-saving services. There is no time to even acknowledge sudden pain, let alone notifying a supervisor. Any medical treatment comes after everyone is safe.
However, putting their safety and well-being second to people is crisis can make what may have been a minor injury into major, potentially career-ending physical damage over time.
Recognizing the risks their fearless men and women face, The Denver Fire Department took proactive steps to protect their well-being. In 2015, the department added physical therapists who provide customized treatment to firefighters. They also help them build strength with the goal of minimizing job-related injuries and expediting rehabilitation and overall recovery.
The program reaped benefits beyond improving the health of their staff. Firefighters found themselves returning to their job faster, reducing the calendar days they were out to 22 from the previous year. The program also had financial benefits to the department. In 2018, workers compensation and overtime costs went down by nearly $600,000.