The Law Office of Michael J. Joshi
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Public safety workers face unique health and safety risks

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently reported its concern over the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in public safety workers nationwide. If you are a firefighter or an emergency medical technician in Missouri, you might be alarmed to learn that your chances of developing MSD are five times higher than that of most workers in other industries. In its National Occupational Research Agenda for the public safety sector, NIOSH published the agency's objectives to address employee safety in this sector.

Although the occupational safety and health of all public workers traditionally fell in one sector, safety authorities say law enforcement, fire services, corrections, wildland fire services and emergency medical services face unique health and safety issues. You might find comfort in learning about the objectives to do more research and develop strategies to protect public safety workers.

Areas of concern

Your occupation poses many hazards, but MSDs, cardiovascular diseases, auto accidents and workplace violence will receive particular attention. NIOSH says additional research will define risk factors and establish interventions to limit occupational illnesses and injuries.

Musculoskeletal disorders

You could expect to lose between 15 and 27 workdays due to MSDs in your job as a firefighter, correctional officer or police officer. Researchers will look at the following:

  • Identification of MSD-causing stressors
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of MSD-reducing interventions
  • Assessment of required body movements per task
  • Ergonomic training to eliminate MSD-causing movements
  • Development of new strategies that will protect workers' ankles, feet, knees, shoulders and backs from musculoskeletal injuries

Safety authorities will then evaluate all new technologies to determine effectiveness.

Auto crashes

Quick response to emergencies is par for the course if you are a police officer, firefighter or EMT, putting vehicle occupants at the following risks:

  • Crashes due to excessive speed
  • Severe injuries due to the failure to wear seat belts
  • Being struck by other vehicles while attending to roadside accidents

There is typically little time to look out for yourself while trying to save the lives of others.

Cardiovascular and other health hazards

Not all heart attacks result from occupational factors, but the work-related stress of your job as a public safety officer can pose the following risks:

  • Diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases
  • Safety concerns due to the health issues experienced by co-workers
  • Cardiovascular diseases, which cause over 50% of firefighters' deaths on the job
  • Coming in contact with cancer-causing contaminants for firefighters

Along with these risks, you could face aggression and violence at any time during your shifts. Although correctional officers frequently face assault risks, all safety officers could be victims of workplace violence.

Workers' compensation

Although you face high levels of risk in your job as a public safety official, you need not to concern yourself about the mounting medical bills and lost wages. The Missouri workers' compensation insurance program has your back. You can claim benefits to cover those financial losses, and an attorney with experience in fighting for the rights of injured public safety workers can navigate the benefits claim on your behalf.

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