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Comprehensive UGA study reveals patterns in firefighter fatalities
Date:4/12/2011

While the number of fires is on the decline, firefighter deaths are not and a new University of Georgia study helps explain why.

Researchers in the UGA College of Public Health found that cultural factors in the work environment that promote getting the job done as quickly as possible with whatever resources available lead to an increase in line-of-duty firefighter fatalities.

"Firefighting is always going to be a hazardous activity, but there's a general consensus among firefighting organizations and among scientific organizations that it can be safer than it is," said study co-author David DeJoy, of the Workplace Health Group in the College of Public Health. "As a society, we ought to make the effort to make it safer."

The research, published in the May edition of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, examined data gathered from 189 firefighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health between 2004 and 2009. Each NIOSH investigation gives recommendations directed at preventing future firefighter injuries and deaths. The researchers looked at the high-frequency recommendations and linked them to important causal and contributing factors of the fatalities.

The four major causes they identified were under-resourcing, inadequate preparation for adverse events during operations, incomplete adoption of incident command procedures and sub-optimal personnel readiness.

DeJoy and his colleagues analyzed the investigations in terms of the core culture of the firefighting profession. Firefighting culture should not be construed as one of negligence, said DeJoy, but one based on a long-standing tradition of acceptance of risk. A job that relies on extreme individual efforts and has too few resources leads to the chronic condition of doing too much with too little, he said.

"If you get used to taking risks, it's easy to take a little more risk," DeJoy said.
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Contact: David DeJoy
dmdejoy@uga.edu
706-542-4368
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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