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Literature Review: Safety in the Fire-Fighting Profession

Info: 1577 words (6 pages) Nursing Literature Review
Published: 24th Mar 2021

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‘Fire-fighting is one of the world’s most honoured but hazardous professions’ (IFSTA, 1998).Therefore, the risk of disabling injuries and death is extremely high among fire-fighters proportionate to other occupation (Braver, 1990). Fire-fighting strategic operations that are important for successful rescue and fire confinement and extinguishment expose an individual to high levels of personal danger.

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Today’s fire-fighters make up greatly skilled fire departments, which respond to all types of emergencies. Emergencies that require swift response and expertise of the Fire service includes cave-ins, building collapse, motor vehicle accidents, air craft crashes, hazardous material releases, explosions, natural disasters, terrorism incidents, water related incidents and a vast range of medical and trauma related injuries. According to Moore-Merrell (2008), fire-fighters undergo excessive numbers of line-of-duty injuries and illnesses. Fire-fighters are at risk for injury or death responding to the emergency and returning from the emergency. Moreover, fire-fighters attitude and the environment that attitude creates gives rise to injuries as an aggressive, uncontrolled and individualistic approach (Young, 2001). Injuries may range from minor to career ending. The study of Szubert and Sobala (2002),pointed out that fire-fighters work are related to diseases like cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and cancers, traumas as health effects. According to Moore (2008) fire-fighting is an occupation that is liable to injuries and illnesses and fire-fighters are not able to eliminate the risks. As risks cannot be eliminated in this profession, injuries can and will occur. As a matter of fact increase in number of injuries and fatalities is appalling worldwide as the fire fighters are facing serious health problems (anon). This shows that even if developed and under developed countries try to reduce the level of risks it still remains a concern as in this profession injury can and will occur. Finally, this chapter will furnish by safety measures, safety management system and safety in order to reduce injuries, death and health problems of fire-fighters.

2.1. Current Trends about Safety Concern.

“….. For fire fighting, the principle work activity is hazard engagement, which is usually further complicated by extreme time pressure. The customary safety strategy in many high hazard work situations is to implement multiple safety measures, or what sometimes referred to as ‘defences in depth’” (Kunadharaju and Lejoy, 2011).

2.2. Worldwide statistics of fire-fighters injury and fatality.

The American fire service has historically sustained a different role in the common psyche of the American people than that of its correspondent in other industrialized nations. The American departments usually represent a single municipality and have great connection with the citizens they helps. The American fire department annually encounter a huge amount of structure fires, fire damages to properties, injuries, and deaths compared to other nations. Annually an estimate of $10 billion of property damage is also reported. Every minute the United States fire department has to face about four fires every minute on a day which equals to 1.8 million fires per year. According to USFA (2005) each year more than 5000 Americans died and about 100,000 are injured due to fire. Internationally, United State has been ranked first on the list for having a higher rate of death and injuries among other developed nations. Thus, fire fighting is an extremely hazardous occupation and it is comprehensible that the occasion of a fire-fighter fatality or severe injury is critical and a cause of distress in the society as well as a time of grief for the family members and fire department respectively.

Fire fighting is an occupation with a multitude of potential causalities for job related mortality or morbidity. Actually, more than 100 fire-fighters die in the line of duty annually, an inordinately huge number compared to other developed nations. Various characteristics of the American fire services, such as a strategic focus on aggressive interior fire attacks and building constructions can describe a part of the higher fatality levels. Nonetheless, most of fire-fighters fatalities do not occur as a direct result of burn or smoke inhalation but rather as a result of sudden cardiac death. Similarly, the cause of fire-fighters injury is not the direct result of burn but attributed to slips, trips and falls respectively.

However, an association was established in US in 1986 known as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in order to reduce or eliminate fire deaths and injuries through public education program and information. NFPA aspires to be the source for fire and life safety information. NFPA helps to make the world a safer place.

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Concerning the fatalities it is noted that there was a total of 1,006 fire service Line-of-Duty Deaths (LODD) reported for the 11-year period from 1995-2005. In the year 2006, the Bureau of Labour published statistics that there were 16.6 fire-fighter fatalities per 100,000 employed fire-fighters compared to the fatality rate of other hazardous occupations. In 2002, the National Fire Protection Agency reported 5.7 fatalities per 100,000 structure fires (Fahy, 2002). Nonetheless, the number of fire-fighter fatalities has not changed considerably over the past two years. The rate of fire-fighter fatalities at structure fires has remained relatively constant despite a consistent decrease in fires since the 1970s, from approximately 1.1 million in 1975 to under 600,000 in 2000; a decrease has been explained by improved standards, a greater emphasis on fire prevention, and changing socioeconomic demographics. The overall number of fire-fighter fatalities has decreased by 38% since 1977 but increased slightly by 7% since 1990. It is noted from the United Fire Administration Data (USFA) that 43.9% of all fire-fighter fatalities from 1990-2000 were due to cardiac events, nearly doubling the second leading cause that is trauma (USFA, 2002). Statistically, fire fighting presents a far higher risk of 45% of cardiac events than any other professions represented on the Bureau of Labour Statistics occupational hazard.

Moreover, following a study on the fire-fighter injury statistics it is observed that in 2006, 83,400 fire-fighter injuries were reported, with 53% of the injuries that occurred on the fireground (Karter and Molis, 2007). From the year 1990 to 2004, the total number of fire ground injuries has decreased from 57,100 to 36,880 in 2004, nevertheless has increased to 44,210 in 2006, so far the number of cases associated to the two main causes of injury, that is, slip, strip and fall are 24.5% among all fire ground injuries and over exertion and strain 25.8% of all injuries that have remained persistently about 23,000. (Karter and Molis, 2007). An increased in rate of fatigue, reduction in flexibility and mobility, and changes in a fire-fighter’s centre of gravity due to wearing fire-fighting personal protective equipment (PPE) and carrying fire-fighter tools may be related to slip, trip and fall injuries and overexertion or strain injuries respectively.

Furthermore, the NFPA report of the year 2007 to 2013 shows a significant decrease in the rate of injuries of fire-fighters encountered on the foreground. The total number of fire ground has decreased from 38,340 to 29,760. The graph below shows the total number of fire-fighter injuries in the line of duty from the year 1981 to 2013. This shows a considerable decrease in the worldwide statistics of fire-fighters injuries from 103,340 to 65,850.

2.3. Fire and rescue service accident statistics by HSE

In the Fire and Rescue Services it is noted that the injury and ill health rates are extreme, nevertheless, this can be improved by practicing safety management system in the organization. Moreover, all the fire injuries experienced by fire-fighters are reported under RIDDOR to HSE for the years 2005/06 to 2009/10p.

However, in 2011/12, the RIDDOR system changed completely. This one and the previous changes have affected data quality and the practical definition of injury kinds. Slips, trips and falls on the same level and falls from height (STF) are mentioned together. The injury report does not usually authorize us to make continuous distinction between these two kinds of job-related injury. STFs are related with more fatal and major injuries than any other type of injury.

In 2013/14p falls from height was the most common cause of fatalities, reckoning 29% fatal injuries to workers and slips and trips are major injuries to employees. STFs were accountable for 57% of major injuries and the remaining three out of ten (29%) are injuries over 7 d ays, making up 36% of injuries to employees (RIDDOR).

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