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Monday, July 8, 2013

It’s NOT Just Part of The Job

This chart illustrates the cause of fire scene injuries as a proportion of total incurred costs.
The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) has a team of field consultants assigned to every member city and every insured department. The consultants have territories around the state and are the front line of LMCIT’s loss control and accident prevention program.

Cheryl Brennan, the field services manager, coordinates this staff of risk and safety professionals. I recently ran some questions by Cheryl concerning the slips, trips, and falls that occur frequently in public safety.

Q. Public safety responders view themselves as different since they work in a very unpredictable environment, their world is very dynamic, and at times they have limited control of what is happening. Can these accidents really be prevented, or is it just part of the job?

A. I agree that when public safety responders are on the scene of an emergency, their environment is often unfamiliar and chaotic. And one would expect that is where we see the most significant loss patterns, but that just isn’t the case. The numbers tell us a different story. Many slip, trip, and fall injuries happen during training, working around the fire station and during non-enforcement activities. These are areas where some basic safety interventions can help. I know, Rob, you’ve worked with some of the loss control field consultants and several of our member entities to identify patterns in losses for public safety employees.

Q. How big of a concern is it?

A. LMCIT is concerned enough about slips, trips, and falls to start a focused loss control initiative to reduce these kinds of injuries for both fire and police professionals. The seriousness of this issue comes to light when we take a look at the numbers. Let’s take a quick look at some information gathered by our data analyst.

Slips and falls are a significant concern for the fire service. These kinds of injuries represent about 17 percent of workers’ compensation (WC) claims and nearly 30 percent of WC claim costs for firefighters over the past decade. To get some perspective, these 594 claims represent nearly $7.4 million dollars in losses during that period of time. That’s a big number. 

Slips and falls are the second most common and expensive type of injury for fire fighters. The average firefighter injury costs about $7,400 while the average slip/fall injury to a firefighter costs about $12,612. The cost of the injury reflects the seriousness of the injury.  We’re not talking just numbers here; we’re talking people and the impact on their quality of life when a serious injury occurs. There’s also the impact on the department as a whole when someone cannot work or is working a lighter duty job.

The same can be said about police officers. Over that same decade, there were 648 injuries worth about $5.5 million for police. That represents about 11 percent of WC claims and about 12 percent of WC claim costs. An average fall/slip injury for police costs $8,545. Slips and falls are the third most common injury for police and the fourth most expensive type of injury for police

Q. What do you recommend?

A. Just as you’ve done, Rob—with injuries that happen during training, we can do something about the frequency of the slips/trips/falls that happen in these two departments. LMCIT has an evaluation tool to help departments assess their risk for these types of injuries, and the League has field consultants to work with members on loss areas. The consultants will be contacting departments in the relatively near future to meet with the chiefs to discuss this problem. Members can make it a priority to meet with the consultants and consider any recommendations they might make.


                                               Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...The New LMC Law Summaries: What Became Law and What Didn’t

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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