Risk-taking culture contributes to firefighter deaths: study

April 20, 2011

Athens, GA – A workplace culture that accepts risk and promotes completing the job as quickly as possible is partially to blame for the increase in firefighter deaths, indicates a study from the University of Georgia.

Based on an analysis of 189 NIOSH firefighter fatality investigations between 2004 and 2009, researchers identified four major causes: under-resourcing, inadequate preparation for adverse events during operations, incomplete adoption of incident command procedures and sub-optimal personnel readiness, according to the study abstract.

Firefighting culture also includes acceptance of risk, which can become a problem when risk becomes part of normal activity, especially in such a dangerous profession, a UGA press release stated. The No. 1 cause of death was cardiovascular events, leading researchers to recommend better medical screening and mandatory fitness and wellness programming.

An average of more than 100 firefighters die each year – 3 times the fatality rate for the general working population, according to the press release.

The research appeared in the May issue of the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.