NIOSH: Fire Fighters Working Along Highways Face Risk

Fire fighters face a serious risk of being struck and killed by traffic when offering emergency assistance along busy highways, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health warns.

Fire fighters face a serious risk of being struck and killed by traffic when offering emergency assistance along busy highways, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) warns in a new bulletin.

From 1995 to 1999, 17 fire fighters were struck and killed by motor vehicles while working along highways at crash scenes, an 89 percent increase over the number killed in the previous five years.

These fatalities demonstrate that line-of-duty risks to fire fighters are not limited to the hazards of fighting structural blazes and wildfires, NIOSH said in the bulletin.

The weather, the time of day, lighting, traffic speed and volume, and road configuration are among the factors that afffect fire fighter safety along roadways.

In one incident noted by NIOSH, one fire fighter was fatally struck, and another severely injured, by a car that lost control on a wet, busy highway.

The NIOSH bulletin recommends precautions for anticipating and preventing such risks.

Among recommendations for fire fighters, NIOSH suggests that fire apparatus should be positioned to protect fire fighters from traffic, that fire fighters should position themselves and any victim in a secure area to maximize their visibility to motorists if it is impossible to protect the scene from immediate danger, and that fire fighters should use traffic control devices (such as flourescent light wands) that maxmimize the fire fighter''s visibilty to motorists when controlling traffic at a scene.

by Virginia Foran

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