Given the popular image of firefighters storming toward burning buildings with a fire hose in hand, naturally many people expect firefighters to be in peak physical shape. However, the truth is that California firefighters are not always in top physical condition. In fact, many firefighters are at risk of suffering a back injury even while not in the midst of handling a dangerous fire.
As FireRescue1 points out, firefighters actually lead sedentary lifestyles. Firefighters are not always combating dangerous blazes and although there are many tasks firefighters perform, like many people in present day society, firefighters tend to sit a lot. This can be a big problem when it comes time to lift heavy equipment. A firefighter can sustain a serious back injury just by trying to pick up something in the fire station.
Commonly, we are told to lift with our legs. Back muscles are weaker than leg muscles, so using your back to pick up equipment can cause a nasty back sprain and put you out of work for weeks. But even lifting with the legs is no guarantee that you will escape injury. Sitting for too long can unbalance your muscles and make it more difficult to activate the glutes. Without proper physical exercise, even leg lifting may not be able to handle heavy loads.
This problem is compounded by the fact that firefighters repeatedly pick up loads as part of the job. The more lifting you perform increases the wear on your muscles. Also, firefighting can be a rapid-fire job. Some firefighters may rush through heavy lifting without paying heed to appropriate lifting techniques or steps that promote safety.
Fire departments are currently looking for ways to assist firefighters with heavy lifting, such as using cargo lift systems that can raise heavy equipment. With the National Fire Protection Association reporting that about 57 percent of firefighters sustain muscular injuries outside of activities on firegrounds, correct lifting should be a priority to prevent injuries that put firefighters on the mend for weeks or perhaps keep them from ever returning to the job.
Keep in mind that this article is not written to provide legal advice. Its purpose is to inform readers on workers' compensation issues.