Comparison of public safety provider injury rates

Prehosp Emerg Care. Oct-Dec 2009;13(4):451-5. doi: 10.1080/10903120903144908.


Introduction: During normal operations, public safety personnel may become injured, leading them to seek medical care and possible time off. Examining the nature and patterns of injury may help to identify preventive health measures for all public safety personnel and address specific needs of each discipline based on actual risk. Objective. To determine the types and severity of injuries encountered by public safety personnel during routine work conditions within a single urban population.

Methods: De-identified workers' compensation data for emergency medical services (EMS), fire, and police providers from one urban center between January 1, 2005, and May 31, 2007, were examined. Data included type of injury, severity of injury, and date of event. Severity was categorized as follows: lost time (type 1), medical evaluation (type 2), report only (type 3), restricted duty (type 4), and not reported (type 5). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and a pairwise t-test between groups with a Bonferroni correction was performed to determine the relative risk of injuries between groups.

Results: During the 29-month interval, an average workforce of 850 firefighters, 194 EMS providers, and 850 police officers were employed. A total of 1,295 workers' compensation events were documented, with 243 (18%) reported from EMS, 477 (36%) from fire, and 608 (46%) from police. Type 1 injuries were more common in fire (39%) and police (38%) than EMS (23%). EMS had higher rates of lost work (type 1) and medical evaluations (type 2) than both fire and police. Workers' compensation events common to all bureaus were minor trauma (76%) and exposures to blood-borne pathogens (12%). Minor traumatic injuries, mostly associated with axial musculoskeletal strains and extremity injuries, were responsible for the majority of injuries resulting in missed work. Injuries more common in a specific bureau included motor vehicle crashes and gunshot wounds (police) and cardiovascular disease, burns, and heat illness (fire).

Conclusion: Public safety personnel are affected by both profession-specific and non-profession-specific injuries. Overall, EMS has higher rates of missed time and medical evaluations than both fire and police. These data highlight the need to make direct comparisons of various public safety personnel bureaus using a common time interval and locale in order to rationally plan interventions and apply resources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Medical Technicians
  • Fires
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Police
  • Rescue Work*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*