FIRE DEPARTMENT: REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF WORKPLACE INJURIES

6-B
FIRE DEPARTMENT: REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF WORKPLACE INJURIES

 

Problem Identification:
Fire Department personnel are vulnerable to a wide range of injuries as a result of their efforts to deliver fire suppression and emergency medical services. Aside from the significant physical and mental anguish caused by workplace injuries, personnel that are unable to perform their duties due to injuries create difficult financial and operational problems for the Department.

Recommended Action:
Collect and analyze data on workplace injuries and revise training programs to reduce the incidence of workplace injuries.

Classification:
Cost Savings, Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:
All Fire Department operations

Estimated Annual Impact:
$217,000

Estimated Implementation Costs:
This recommendation could be implemented within the Department’s existing resources.

Barriers to Implementation:
Collection and analysis of data would need to become increased priorities for the Department.

Projected Implementation:
45 days for initial data collection and analysis; 180 days for the revision of existing programs and the development of new training programs.

Next Steps:
Analyze all available historical data on workplace injuries, identify troubling trends, and develop, in cooperation with the City’s risk management function, strategies to reduce the incidences of injuries. Once the analyzes are completed, modify existing programs, create new training programs and invest in new safety equipment (where appropriate).

Analysis:
The Department must make every conceivable effort to mitigate the risks of service for its personnel. Reducing the frequency and severity of workplace injuries can produce tangible savings in the following areas:

1. Reduction in number of paid work days lost due to injuries;
2. Reduction in overtime costs associated with filling minimum staffing posts that are vacant as a result of personnel that have been injured on duty and cannot work;
3. Reduction in number of service-connected disability pensions awarded; and
4. Reduction in the repair and replacement costs for equipment damaged or destroyed as a result of vehicular accidents.

The Fire Department project team encountered the following data related to workplace injuries and vehicular accidents through the course of its work:

BCFD Injury Data
1994-1998

Category 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 Average
Responding/Returning from a Fire 38 8 8 4 0 5
At Fire Ground 236 457 380 265 293 349
At Non-Fire Emergency NR 92 222 201 168 171*
Training 9 3 34 25 9 16
Other on Duty Injuries 17 185 80 199 173 159
Total Injuries NC 745 724 694 643 702*

Source: The BCFD’s 1994-1998 submissions to the National Fire Protection Association
NR: Not Reported
NC: Not Complete
*1995-1998 four-year average

While the 13.7 percent reduction in the total number of injuries during the 1994-1998 period is encouraging, the fluctuating and/or increasing trends in the number of injuries occurring ‘at fire grounds’ and ‘other on duty injuries’ are worthy of additional investigation. These injuries, furthermore, are causing the Department’s personnel to miss an increasing amount of work as illustrated in the following chart:


Source: BCFD

The project team also encountered data related to vehicle accidents and accident-related injuries:

All told, the Department lost an average of 3,147 employee work days to injuries per year during the three-year period 1997-1999 (1) . Additionally, the Department’s vehicles were involved in an average of 209 accidents per year during the five-year period 1994-1998. Were the Department to reduce those levels by a modest 15 percent in future years, the following represent conservative estimates of the potential cost savings (2) :

472 fewer employee work days lost due to injury31 fewer vehicle accidents with an average repair cost of $2,000 per accident (3) $155,000$ 62,000$217,000

(1) To put this figure in perspective, consider that the City of Philadelphia’s Fire Department lost only 1,771 work days to injury in FY99, almost 44 percent fewer work days lost to injury than the BCFD’s 1997-1999 three-year average, all while having an almost 40 percent larger uniformed workforce.
(2) Estimate does not include associated pension and medical costs borne by the City’s retirement and benefits systems.
(3) Fire apparatus are among the most costly vehicles in the municipal fleet. This conservative estimate does not factor in unplanned vehicle replacements necessitated by accidents.