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Health for the Firefighter

Dräger – Health concerns for firefighters

firecastmedia November 1, 2022 498


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As you’ll have seen hosted on the UK Fire website, Dräger has conducted a survey into the health concerns of serving Firefighters. This is a follow up to Dräger’s 2020 ‘Health for the Firefighter’ survey and seeks to find out if perceptions have changed; specifically with regard to their potential exposure to carcinogens, contaminants and viruses such as Covid-19. It also investigates which technologies are seen to be the most important in supporting firefighter health.  

Ultimately, the purpose of the research is to inform on how industry can further support Fire Services and their personnel; and help drive the cultural changes that are required to protect firefighter health. 

This research follows a report released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organisation (WHO) body, in which firefighting was declared as a ‘carcinogenic occupation’.

This podcast is to discuss the survey results from varied industry perspectives and make recommendations for what actions will support firefighter health. 

Key stats:

  • 100% of survey respondents admitted concern that exposure to carcinogens would impact their long-term health, and 65.2% categorising this concern as considerable. This was a significant increase from the 2020 survey, where 84.6% admitted concern in 2020, 34.2% of which was considerable.
  • 70.6% of respondents stated that the reduction of carcinogen exposure as a firefighter was ‘extremely important’ in their working environment, with a further 17.6% declaring they found it ‘very important’.
  • Unsurprisingly, concern about exposure to Covid-19 has reduced since the 2020 survey, with 46.3% stating moderate to considerable concern compared a previous figure of 68.4%.
  • three quarters (78.3%) of survey respondents claimed that the washing of masks or cleaning apparatus in a mechanical cleaning machine would improve their health.  
  • Interestingly however, despite 79.7% of respondents claiming that the cleaning of masks, PPE and BA and associated equipment was ‘extremely important’ in their working lives, when asked if their approach towards cleaning their equipment had changed following the Covid-19 pandemic, just under half (49.2%) agreed.
  • The survey also asked which technologies our respondents thought would be most important in protecting firefighter long-term health. A significant four out of ten (40.6%) opted for ‘contamination detection equipment’ as key to their long-term health, with the next most important being biometric monitoring, with nearly one in three (30%) prioritising this technology.  

Brian Hesler

Brian Hesler is a consultant and specialist advisor on Fire & Rescue matters at Draeger Safety UK. Brian has 33 years’ experience working across the UK Fire Service primarily in Operational, Training & Resilience roles. 

Joining Cleveland Fire Brigade as a Firefighter in 1978, his career took him across the UK from London, Oxfordshire, Cleveland, Fife, and Durham & Darlington Fire and Rescue Services, culminating in seven years as Chief Fire Officer and Director of Community Safety for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service. He was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2008

Brian was also seconded to the Fire Service College for three years as Head of Operational Command, Ship & Offshore Firefighting as well as International Training, and he now consults on a range of issues in support of firefighter safety, including training, equipment and R&D, public policy and technologies related to blue light services.

Steve Luke

Steve joined Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue after leaving the armed forces in 1998, before moving to County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) working in multiple roles at different levels – operational, training Instructor,H&S Manager. He was part of the team that introduced the reduction and controlling of fire contaminants exposure to CDDFRS staff operationally and training environments.

He is currently seconded to the Fire Service College as a Fire Craft Team Leader / Instructor and is also assisting with the introduction of fire contaminant policy and procedures for college staff and students.

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