Injury Risk and Noise Exposure in Firefighter Training Operations

  • Neitzel R
  • Long R
  • Sun K
 et al. 
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INTRODUCTION: Firefighters have high rate of injuries and illnesses, as well as exposures to high levels of noise. This study explored the relationship between noise exposure and injury among firefighters. METHODS: We recruited firefighters undergoing vehicle extrication and structural collapse emergency response training at a highly realistic training facility. Demographics, health status, body mass index (BMI), and history of serious injuries (i.e. injuries requiring first aid treatment, treatment in a medical clinic or office, or treatment at a hospital) were assessed at baseline, and daily activities, injury events, and near misses were assessed daily via surveys. Participants' noise exposures were monitored for one 24-h period using noise dosimeters. We used a mixed-effects logistic regression model to estimate the odds of injury events and near misses associated with noise exposure as an independent variable. RESULTS: Of 56 subjects, 20 (36%) reported that they had ever suffered a serious injury during firefighting activities, and 9 (16%) reported a serious injury within the past year. We estimated rates of 6.6 lifetime serious injuries per 100 FTE 16.1 serious injuries per 100 FTE within the past year. Our models indicated a significant increase in injury events and near misses among those with higher BMI, and as well as a dose-response relationship between near misses/injuries and increasing noise levels. Noise levels >90 dBA in the 30min prior to time of injury or near miss were associated with substantially increased odds ratios for injury or near miss. Our models further indicated that perceived job demands were significantly associated with increased risk of injury or near miss. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that noise exposures may need to be incorporated into injury prevention programs for firefighters to reduce injuries among this high-risk occupational group.

Author-supplied keywords

  • firefighting
  • injury prevention
  • noise exposure
  • occupational injury

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  • Richard L. Neitzel

  • Rachel N. Long

  • Kan Sun

  • Stephanie Sayler

  • Terry L. Von Thaden

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