The American fire service suffers an estimated 81,000 injuries annually. Nearly half of these injuries occur on the fireground, with overexertion and strain as the leading ailments. 38% of all fire-related injuries result in some loss of work time. Many of these injuries require some rehabilitative effort or medical intervention that involves a departmental review prior to returning the employee back to their full-duty status.
Considering the physical nature of the job and the hostile work environments in which we operate, it’s clear that there is considerable risk of further injury, disability, or even death when prematurely returning fire service personnel to work environments in which they are not physically prepared to function. As such, fire service leaders are often faced with a key task—overseeing the assessment of a firefighter’s fitness level in order to determine if they are ready to return to full-duty status after some type of injury, illness, or other health issue. Fortunately, there is a great resource that can help us through this important process.
NFPA 1582 Details
NFPA 1582: Standard on Occupational Medical Programs for Fire Departments (2007 edition) provides a comprehensive roadmap for fire departments to assess firefighter readiness to perform essential job functions, focusing on strength and aerobic readiness for full-duty status.
There are many benefits to NFPA 1582, one of which is the ability to identify adverse health issues. While precursors to cardiovascular events often remain dormant until they cascade into a precipitating event, return-to-duty evaluations serve as an added opportunity to assess firefighters for potential cardiovascular precursors that, if identified early, can be successfully managed through lifestyle and dietary modification, medication and other necessary medical intervention.
The essence of NFPA 1582 is the evaluation of 13 essential job tasks by a trained departmental physician of the authority having jurisdiction. Firefighters under NFPA 1582 should have a baseline firefighter examination, followed by an annual firefighter physical that provides for specific measurement parameters that an individual and department medical physician can use to determine readiness to return to work. The physician should be familiar with the standard and with the rigors of the essential fire department job functions, including those that may be unique to a particular individual or service area.
Life Scan Wellness Centers, as the nation’s leading provider of first responder NFPA 1582/1583 physicals, also incorporates enhanced lab markers in blood work as well as extensive imaging aimed at the early detection of preventable occupational diseases in their most incipient stages. Enhanced imaging integrated into already comprehensive physicals provides an even more proactive approach to early detection and disease recognition before tragic outcomes occur. We know the sooner risk and disease processes are identified not only are the outcomes far better for the first responder but the employer’s costs are less for their care.
This article, written by Chief Todd LeDuc (Ret.), was originally published by Fire Rescue Magazine and has since been updated. You can see the original article here.