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Research unearths “mounting concern” over firefighters’ future health

25 October 2022

SAFETY TECHNOLOGY specialist Dräger is calling for improved equipment cleaning procedures within the firefighting industry after a survey revealed that 100% of firefighters admit to concerns that exposure to carcinogens would impact their long-term health.

Serving as a follow-up to Dräger’s 2020 ‘Health for the Firefighter’ survey, the new study investigated the health concerns of serving firefighters with regards to the threat posed by carcinogens, contaminants and viruses such as COVID-19.

Of the 100% of firefighters concerned about their future health, 65% voiced the view that their concerns are ‘considerable’. This is almost double the number from the initial research conducted two years ago when the equivalent figure stood at 34%.

Almost three-quarters (71%, in fact) of respondents said that reducing their exposure to carcinogens was ‘extremely important’ in their working environment, with a further 18% declaring they find this ‘very important’.

Exposure to COVID-19

Unsurprisingly, concern about exposure to COVID-19 has reduced since the 2020 survey, with 46% of firefighters surveyed voicing moderate to considerable concern compared to the previous figure of 68%.

More than three-quarters (ie 78%) of survey respondents claimed that the washing of masks or cleaning apparatus in a mechanical cleaning machine would improve support for a safer environment and protect their health.

Interestingly, however, despite 80% of respondents claiming that the cleaning of masks, PPE and breathing apparatus as well as associated equipment is ‘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%) agreed.

Key technologies and equipment

The survey also asked firefighters which technologies would be most important in protecting their long-term health. A significant four-ouf-of-ten opted for ‘contamination detection equipment’ as being key to their long-term health, with 30% suggesting that biometric monitoring should also be prioritised.

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

Liz Milward, marketing manager of Emergency and Rescue Services at Dräger, commented: “Ultimately, the purpose of Dräger’s study is to inform how the industry can further support Fire and Rescue Services and their personnel and help drive the cultural and technological advances required to protect firefighters’ health going forward.”