Selection of materials and clothing systems for protection of active firefighters in the workplace continues to focus on resistance to heat, flame, and chemicals. This is probably because these hazards are obvious and seem most likely to cause injury. However, examination of agents and events which actually result in injury is necessary if continued improvements to protective clothing systems are to be made. This rationale was explained in an earlier paper .
The present study sought to identify injury agents and types of injury sustained by New Zealand firefighters which resulted in hospital admission. Comprehensive national hospitalization files for a ten-year period 1980 – 1989 were examined. The World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases E Codes were used to categorize injury events (agents) and included motor vehicles, water, poison, falls, fire and flame, suffocation and ‘other’. The International Classification of Diseases N Codes was used for injury diagnosis and included fractures, dislocation, sprains and strains, intra cranial, internal chest, open wounds, contusions, crushing, burns, nerves and spine, and toxic effects.
The highest injury rates per 1000 career employees occurred with fractures, toxic effects and open wounds, although no significant trends over time were observed. Falls and ‘other’ injury agents were the dominant cause of injury.
The rationale for current developments in protective clothing in New Zealand is explained, with reference to the diversity in the nature of work required of firefighters and to recent legislative changes.