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Firefighter Safety Stand Down Week

Wilmington Workers' Compensation lawyers represent injured first responders. Cancer diagnosis rates among firefighters has become a disturbing trend. A multi-year study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently found that firefighters have a 14 percent greater risk of dying from cancer and double the chance of having testicular cancer or mesothelioma, compared to the general public.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council have come together to present Firefighter Safety Stand Down week on June 16 to 22. Both organizations recently issued the Lavender Ribbon Report, which provides a series of best practices that, if followed, are expected to reduce risk of cancer among firefighters.

The danger of exposure to cancer-causing materials comes from both the building materials and the gear worn to fight the fires. Exposure to contaminants in the air from combustion products is well known. Recently, firefighting gear and foam have been recognized as potential likely sources of exposure to carcinogens. Turn out pants are typically made using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as it has useful water repellent properties.  PFOA and similar compounds have been implicated as carcinogenic. There is no known safe alternative for making turnout gear at a reasonable cost.

The Lavender Ribbon Report

Helpful tips for firefighters in the Lavender Ribbon Report include the following:

Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Use full gear for all responses to minimize the chance of exposure to airborne carcinogens.
  • Use a second sock hood to ensure smoke protection of the face, jaw, and neck area that is exposed when using a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and to always have a hood free of contamination available while the other is drying after decontamination.

Decontaminating PPE and Related Gear:

  • Begin gross decontamination at the work site immediately by using soapy water and a brush while continuing to wear a SCBA.
  • Place contaminated or soapy PPE in an exterior compartment or large storage tote to prevent exposure from off-gassing while in transit.
  • Clean SCBA gear and other contaminated equipment before loading it onto the apparatus cab.
  • Perform thorough decontamination of all equipment and PPE at the station.

Personal Hygiene Practices:

  • Use personal wipes to clean the head, neck, face, and hands as soon as possible after the response.
  • Refrain from eating or drinking until after gross decontamination and only eat in areas away from contaminated equipment.
  • Shower at the station within one hour of completing response.
  • Segregate storage spaces for gear away from the kitchen and sleeping areas of the station.

Lifestyle Precautions:

  • Conduct an annual physical to detect potential diseases early
  • Do not use any form of tobacco
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight
  • Track and record occupational exposure at fire incidents

Firefighters and other first responders are urged to pause their non-emergency activities during Firefighter Safety Stand Down week and educate themselves on reducing cancer risks through implementing best practices. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act has been established to help develop data on firefighters’ risk of cancer. First responders are encouraged to report exposure information to the national registry.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Represent Injured First Responders

If you are a first responder that was injured at work, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits to help with medical costs. We will help secure the maximum compensation you are entitled. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or complete an online form to speak to an experienced Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyer and Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Located in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.