Being a firefighter in California is a selfless job that typically takes a heavy toll from those who aim to save lives — regardless of the harm they face. If this is your profession, you will likely know the risks you face whenever you are on duty. Along with extinguishing fires, you have to pull people from vehicles in fiery accidents, from burning buildings and even from the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Your rescue work does not require the presence of a fire. Firefighters are often the first responders in events such as construction accidents, trench collapses and other emergencies that might expose you to hazardous atmospheres in the presence of toxic fumes and other dangers.
Risks to recognize
Entering a career as a firefighter needs careful consideration of the many hazards you will have to face. While the list is almost endless, the following are known dangers firefighters face:
- The heavy load: Your job will pose many physical challenges, such as handling heavy equipment including hoses, ladders, axes and more while wearing bulky personal protective equipment. You will wear a facemask and a thick coat while carrying an oxygen tank as you battle against the flames that might last for hours. It is, therefore, not surprising that the primary cause of injuries to firefighters results from overexertion.
- Smoke and burn hazards: The most significant threat to your health is suffering burn wounds and smoke inhalation. Safety authorities say a considerable percentage of injuries to firefighters result from these hazards — many of them fatal. If flames and smoke trap you inside a burning building, your life will be at risk.
- Collapsing constructions: Burning floors, stairways and roofs pose significant dangers. Along with the risk of being trapped under collapsed buildings, you will also face fall hazards. While falls can happen when a structure collapses, climbing ladders to hoist a hose to aim at upper floors or to reach trapped victims also pose fall risks. Falls can cause severe injuries that might even result in disability or death.
- Cancer threat: Researchers report that carcinogenic chemicals pose hazards to firefighters at the fire station, on the fire trucks and in burning buildings. They say the sources include diesel exhaust fumes along with formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform, styrene and soot. Inhalation or skin absorption can cause prostate cancer, testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
Knowing how the risks of your job can affect your health and financial stability might raise concerns. However, if the unthinkable happens, relief is available through the California workers' compensation insurance system. Navigating the claims process while you are injured or ill may be overwhelming, but help is available. An experienced workers' compensation attorney could handle the complicated legal and administrative procedures on your behalf. This might help you obtain coverage of medical expenses and lost wages along with additional benefits if your injury caused a debilitating injury or disease.