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|Last Updated: Monday, November 05, 2012|
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH, is a federal agency that is part of the Centers for Disease Control. NIOSH has a mission of generating new knowledge in the occupational safety and health field and to transfer that knowledge into practice for the advancement of workers, including firefighters and emergency responders.
In 1998, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) requested that Congress fund NIOSH to start a firefighter safety initiative called the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. "We investigate fatalities to learn from the mistakes the others made and to try to prevent future fatalities and injuries from occurring in similar events," stated Project Officer Tim Merinar with the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. According to NIOSH, the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Program has made over 1,000 recommendations arising from over 300 investigations since its inception in 1998.
Merinar claimed that some do not fully understand who NIOSH is and what their goals are, often being confused with OSHA. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is not an enforcement agency, they are a research and education agency. Merinar added, "We're not looking to find fault or place blame on the fire departments or the individual firefighters in the incidents."
As soon as possible after an incident, a NIOSH investigator will meet with the fire department. "Oftentimes, we have to explain who we are, why we're there, what we're trying to accomplish," added Merinar. NIOSH investigates as many firefighter fatalities as possible involving structure fires, deaths from cardiovascular disease, as well as deaths during non-fireground incidents.
NIOSH offers many different publications to firefighters, including their newest one about risk management at structure fires. This literature is distributed to the fire service free of charge. Another publication offered to firefighters deals with floor joists and the risk of falling through fire-damaged floors. "They work very well for the construction industry, but when they're exposed to fire they also fail very rapidly. Which leads to early building collapses," explained Merinar. "Many firefighters have been injured and killed in these collapses."
Trends such as this uncovered during their investigations and spread to the fire service, could help prevent future deaths. Another trend found several years ago by NIOSH involved PASS devices not sounding on firefighters who died. According to Merinar, NIOSH worked with the National Fire Protection Association to have the standard changed to make the PASS devices more reliable and more effective for firefighters. Currently, they are working with the NFPA on the thermal degradation characteristics of face piece lenses.
For more information on the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, incident reports or fire fighter publications, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/.
Contributors To This Story:
Barbara Brooks - Video Report
Ann Zevely - Camera/Editing
Renee Marquart - Text Story
Author:B. Brooks, A. Zevely, R. Marquart - FDNNTV.com
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