Firefighters face more chances of injury playing sports in the games yard than they do fighting fires, a dossier of injuries has revealed.
An official report on accidents sustained at Essex County Fire & Rescue Service between 2007 and 2008 – revealed following a request under the Freedom of Information Act – shows that more firefighters end up hospitalised by group games of volleyball and football than they do fighting fires and rescuing people.
One firefighter was injured getting out of bed answering their pager, while another sustained an injury after slipping on the floor after having a shower.
Just 17 injuries out of 73 recorded incidents – reported to the Health and Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations – occurred while officers were actually on duty responding to calls from the public. And it seems that responding to pager alerts is one of the more hazardous requirements of the job, with four injuries reported, including one officer falling from a kerb while another tripped at home, causing a twisted left ankle.
The list of injuries reported to the Health and Safety officials deals a massive blow to the macho image of firefighters, with getting out of bed and trying to open locker doors both causing problems.
Time spent on rowing machines and jogging tracks appear to be more dangerous for them than answering 999 calls, with more than a third of the reported incidents (25) involving exercise, including eight injuries of firefighters crocked while playing volleyball.
Other sports-related injuries included:
- a broken neck and left shoulder sustained while playing football
- broken ribs as a result of a heavy five-a-side challenge
- a hand injury caused by tripping on an exercise mat
- shoulder damage after a fall during a leapfrogging incident
- a rowing machine back injury.
One officer even suffered a lower back strain while carrying a ladder during a cat rescue last summer.
David Johnson, chief fire officer at the Essex brigade, which employs 1,490 firefighters, said: “Physical training and team sports play an important role in maintaining the physical fitness of firefighters.
“It also supports the team work ethic that plays an important part of a firefighter’s role.
“We do however recognise that there are risks to these types of activity and we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the number of accidents and injuries that occur balanced against the recognised benefits.”
A Fire Brigades Union spokesman said latest figures showed that 2,471 firefighters were injured attending incidents between 2004 and 2005.
He said: “Firefighting is a very dangerous profession.”