The Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), along with the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance, the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN), and with support from California Casualty, have developed a poster of the 11 best practices for preventing firefighter cancer. The poster provides all fire department leaders and firefighting personnel with specific actions that must be taken to address the cancer epidemic and protect firefighters.
Use these 11 best practices as the basis for fire department standard operating procedures and hang a copy at the station as a reminder of the actions every firefighter needs to follow.
Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer Poster
December 31 is the deadline to apply for the 2018 VFIS of Texas / Texas Mutual Insurance Company Health & Wellness Grant. Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded based on financial need. Health & wellness is very important to help prevent emergency responder deaths and injuries and we encourage all safety group members to apply.
A reminder that December 31 is also the deadline to submit receipts for reimbursement under the 2017 VFIS of Texas / Texas Mutual Safety, Training & Wellness Grant. If your department was awarded a grant this year, please make sure to submit your receipts before the end of December.
If you look forward to going to work every day, oftentimes it’s because of the people you work with. That’s how it was for Josh Paulin. As a valued member of the Classic Construction team, Josh’s special relationship with his employer provided the momentum for his successful return-to-work story. While sealing a roof on the job, Josh fell and nearly lost his life. Josh’s coworkers watched the traumatic accident in devastation as paramedics fought to save him.
When you’re faced with a life-changing event like Josh was, the best outcome is getting back to the life you love. For Josh, getting to that point required learning to walk, talk and read again. Watch Josh’s story and see how Texas Mutual Insurance Company and his employer were by his side every step of the way.
Josh’s story is a perfect example of how valuable a return-to-work initiative is for businesses and injured workers. As a seasoned employee, Josh’s employer was eager to get him back on the team. While continuing rehabilitation, Josh went back to work with modified job duties. He was able to contribute his unique expertise to the company surrounded by coworkers who supported his ongoing recovery. Meanwhile, Josh’s employer had peace of mind over the future of his business.
When a worker sustains life-changing injuries, coming to terms with the new way of life can be a challenge, but a return-to-work program provides countless benefits. Employees can focus on their recovery rather than stress about their financial situation. By being surrounded by team comradery, they avoid isolation from peers and symptoms of depression. Giving injured workers purpose and surrounding them with familiar faces to celebrate recovery milestones promotes quicker healing.
For employers, implementing a return-to-work program maintains production by keeping experienced workers on the job. Bringing on a temporary employee or hiring someone new requires time and effort. Meanwhile, the business loses productivity. Employers who invest in return to work can minimize lost productivity and control workers’ compensation costs, while also encouraging the ongoing recovery of a valued employee.
It was a team effort getting Josh back on the job after his traumatic accident, but it made all the difference. For more resources on return-to-work programs and implementing them in your business, visit the Return-To-Work page at texasmutual.com.
Our ESO Safety Group was recently awarded two top awards from Texas Mutual Insurance Company at the annual Master Agent Meeting. Our group received a safety excellence award for exceeding safety expectations set by Texas Mutual in 2015.
Barbara Marzean, the group’s Master Agent and President of VFIS of Texas, was also awarded the 2016 Safety Group Master Agent of the Year for excellence in group management.
These awards reinforce and validate the efforts of our Safety Group members to continue to promote workplace safety and training. By working safely, our group members also benefit by receiving general dividends and Safety Group dividends for good performance.
Claims for our group tend to involve Motor Vehicle Accidents and Industrial Hygiene/Bloodborne Pathogens.Motor Vehicle Accidents – An estimated 40,000 Americans die on the road each year. The impact on families and businesses is enormous. Authorities cite distracted driving in 80% of traffic accidents. Fatigue is a factor in 100,000 crashes annually. Speeding is involved in about 33% of fatal crashes and more than 60% of people killed in traffic accidents are not wearing seat belts.
SAFE HAND TEXAS FLYER (English)
SAFE HAND TEXAS FLYER (Spanish)
Industrial Hygiene/Bloodborne Pathogens – Texas Mutual offers safety resources relating to these issues in their safety resource center at www.texasmutual.com. Safety resources include on online video titled “Bloodborne Pathogens: Universal Precautions” and a poster titled “Bloodborne Pathogens”. They also have a bloodborne pathogen sample program.
Excerpted from the Firefighter Support Cancer Network document August 2013
What is the Firefighter Cancer Problem? Firefighter cancer is a looming personal catastrophe for each and every firefighter. Cancer is the most dangerous and unrecognized threat to the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters.
Multiple studies, including the soon-to-be-released NIOSH cancer study, have repeatedly demonstrated credible evidence and biologic creditability for statistically higher rates of multiple types of cancers in firefighters compared to the general American population including:
■ Testicular cancer (2.02 times greater risk)
■ Multiple myeloma (1.53 times greater risk)
■ Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (1.51 times greater risk)
■ Skin cancer (1.39 times greater risk)
■ Prostate cancer (1.28 times greater risk)
■ Malignant melanoma (1.31 times great risk)
■ Brain cancer (1.31 times greater risk)
■ Colon cancer (1.21 times great risk)
■ Leukemia (1.14 times greater risk)
■ Breast cancer in women (preliminary study results from the San Francisco Fire Department)
We are just beginning to understand the horrific magnitude of the problem, the depth of our naiveté, the challenges involved and the changes required in education, training, operations, medical screenings and personal accountability to effectively address cancer in the fire service. The signs of firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens are everywhere:
■ Photos appear every day of firefighters working in active and overhaul fire environments with SCBA on their backs but not masks on their faces.
■ Firefighters still proudly wear dirty and contaminated turnout gear and helmets.
■ Some fire instructors wear their carcinogen-loaded helmets and bunker gear as symbols of their firefighting experience.
■ Diesel exhaust, a recognized carcinogen, still contaminates many fire stations — apparatus bays as well as living, sleeping and eating quarters.
■ Many firefighters only have one set of gear which means they are continually re-contaminated from previous fires.
■ Some diesel exhaust systems — even when installed — are not used, are used incorrectly or are poorly maintained.
■ Bunker gear still is stored in apparatus bays where it is bathed in diesel exhaust.
■ Bunker gear goes unwashed for months at a time, even after significant fires.
■ Many volunteers carry their contaminated gear in the trunks of their personal vehicles resulting in superheating and enhanced off-gassing of contaminants into the passenger compartment and sometimes even into their homes.
■ Firefighters put their contaminated gear into the cabs of their apparatus both before and after fires.
■ Some firefighters still take their contaminated bunker pants and boots into sleeping quarters.
■ The interiors of apparatus cabs are rarely decontaminated.
■ Many firefighters do not take showers immediately following fires.
“Pinpointing the cause of cancer is extremely difficult because firefighters are not exposed to just one agent. They are exposed to multiple cancer-causing agents. Because of the multiple exposures and the multiple routes of exposure — they inhale carcinogens and carcinogens are absorbed through the skin — it is also highly unlikely for firefighters to get only one type of cancer,” said Grace LeMasters, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati and the lead author of a 2006 meta-analysis of 32 published studies of cancer in firefighters.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate visible impact of carcinogenic exposure, since the time between exposure to carcinogens and the appearance of malignancies can be 20 years or longer, known as the latency period.
“We are not making this up,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. “The connection between firefighting and cancer is real, and there is scientific data to support our position. But we cannot stop there — we must continue to learn more so we can prevent our members from contracting this horrible disease and help them if they do.”
IAFC VCOS Chairman, Chief Tim Wall agreed. “Cancer does not discriminate between firefighters,” he said. “Volunteers routinely transport bunker gear in their vehicles, wear clothing contaminated after a fire into their homes and expose their families to these carcinogens. This is a terrible problem that requires our full attention and immediate action.”
via Texas Mutual
Texas Mutual’s board of directors voted unanimously to approve a copany-record $240 million dividend distribution in 2016. Qualifying policyholder owners across Texas will share the dividend, which will be distributed beginning in July.
This is the 18th consecutive year the board has voted to distribute policyholder dividends, bringing the total to over $2 billion. Over $1 billion of that has been paid since 2012.
Texas Mutual is owned by its policyholders, not stockholders, which means the company shares its success by distributing dividends to policyholder owners who have made a commitment to preventing workplace accidents and helping injured workers get back on the job.
“Texas Mutual has a long history of rewarding our policyholder owners for their contributions to our success,” said Bob Barnes, chairman of Texas Mutual’s board. “These dividends reward safe business practices and also help our policyholders’ bottom lines. Our policyholder owners play an important role in Texas’ economy, and we know the difference these dividends can make for them.”
Texas Mutual President and CEO Rich Gergasko said the dividend distribution is about more than just financial success and that it also signifies the commitment the company and its policyholders make to keeping workplaces safe.
“Texas Mutual measures success not just in terms of dollars and cents but also in the number of lives saved and accidents prevented when employers place an emphasis on workplace safety,” Gergasko said. “We’re proud to share our success and reward the safety efforts Texas employers make with this year’s dividend distribution.”
Gergasko noted that while Texas Mutual has awarded dividends each year since 1999, they are based on performance and therefore are not guaranteed. Additionally, dividends must comply with Texas Department of Insurance regulations.
By Roy Mercer, VFIS of Texas Director of Safety, Training & Education
The last article I wrote was the beginning stages of my Biggest Loser experience. “Three very important rules, even I have a problem maintaining are; stretching your body before you take on the activity, drinking 100 ounces of water a day or ½ your body weight in ounces of water a day, and taking small steps toward your goals.” In this article I will be focusing on setting those small goals. Setting goals are easy, staying on track is the hard part because life gets in the way. As many of you have already experienced through your emergency responses or even your classes, very similar to your ICS 300, setting goals need to be SMART.
What are SMART goals? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Specific goals are those that guide the user and/or the participant to desirable results. Remember, when developing the SMART goals, it is for you and the life you are living, keep focusing on yourself, what are the desired results of your goals. An example, I will drink at least half my weight in ounces of water per day within three months, this is the desired result. Measurable, half my weight per day of water. Attainable, don’t make it hard to reach because when we accomplish something we feel good about ourselves. Keep in mind that experts state it takes 66 days to form a habit, according to a new recent study, “founded by the 2010 UK study, led by University College London research psychologist Pippa Lally”. Meaning, if your desire is to keep this goal ongoing, then set it up for 66 days to be attainable. You may want to start drinking 16 ounces a day at the beginning and by the end of the 66th day you have met your goal of half your weight in ounces of water per day. If you forget and don’t achieve a certain day, the 66 days start over. Remember, it is your life so make it attainable to your life style. If the goal was to create a habit of drinking half your weight of water a day, after you reach half your weight of water from that day forward you start counting the 66 days. Realistic, can it be accomplished? You need to stop and ask yourself, if I drink this much water when can I drink and please don’t forget, the water goes somewhere, so can I also get rid of the water. These are two important rules for me, I travel and when I am on the road I need to take the opportunity to stop. Planning is very important, I have been held up in traffic before and the pain was so bad that I was willing to relieve myself right there, haven’t done this yet but I am sure it will happen if I do not plan correctly. Lastly, Timely, we mentioned this already, the 66 days, but a time frame is very important, it sets the bench marks of the goal. During this 66 days’ experience of creating a habit, set up achievable bench marks along the way to keep yourself on task for the overall goal timeline.
Stretching your muscles today is being questioned by some officials. Evidence has not proven that stretching helps reduce injuries during exercise. Additionally, there’s no evidence that stretching will harm you before and even after you exercise. The Biggest Loser’s group supports the idea of stretching the body before working out. By far I am not an expert in the subject but personally I like the idea of stretching. We were asked in the at the Biggest Loser campus to join the group at 6 am. I always enjoyed this hour of stretching, preparing you mentally and physically each day before your exercising experience. This year at the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals’ Association convention, a stretching class has scheduled each morning at 6 am. I will be facilitating the event with SWorkit App. This program will help you get started in your regular day. Through my travels across the state I have seen and heard new approaches to stretch your body before starting work. One department, don’t remember the name, has implemented stretching before the trucks get checked at the start of each shift, a pat-on-the-back for those departments for implementing these processes. The SWorkit App will guide you through the process. In closing, come out June 25 – 28, 2016 in McAllen, Texas to start your days right.
By Shawn Henners, Safety Officer, Montgomery County Hospital District
Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) provides indigent care, 911 EMS service, and public health for a county of about 500,000 residents, the 13th fastest growing county in the nation. On the EMS side, we have about 200 EMS field personnel, and in 2015 we ran just shy of 60,000 calls.
In 2014, the Safety Committee noted that the number of reported employee injuries caused by “combative patients” was starting to rise. That year, 14 of our 44 (32%) employee injury reports identified “combative patient” as the immediate cause. One of those incidents aggravated a pre-existing back problem, effectively ending the career of one of our paramedics and costing over $100,000 in workers’ comp claims. 2015 was not very different – 12 of 52 (23%) employee injury reports identified “combative patient” as the immediate cause, including a concussion caused when a paramedic’s head was slammed against a cement floor. Thankfully, that employee recovered quickly and fully.
In May 2015, the Safety Committee considered several training solutions on the market, both nationally and locally. In the end, we chose DT4EMS (Defensive Tactics 4 Escaping Mitigating Surviving). We chose this particular solution because it was designed for EMS/fire, and includes training on the legal and ethical responsibilities to our patients (and how to recognize an attacker vs. a patient), how to de-escalate a situation by providing great customer service (a high value at MCHD), and finally, how to physically defend yourself from an attack while minimizing liability to the organization or individual. The class is a perfect combination of lecture & practical skills – it seems like you’re never in your seat for more than 30 minutes at a time.
We hosted a train-the-trainer in October 2015 and trained nine employees (plus one local firefighter). After a few months of planning and looking at policies and SOGs that might need to change to better align with the training, our in-house trainers trained EMS command staff and some of our training department in January 2016. Although some of them were rather skeptical at first of the need for training, by the end of the 16-hour class, they were 100% behind it. We will begin training our field crews in March, integrate the class as part of our new employee training plan in May, and plan to extend the training to our call-takers and dispatchers as soon as possible.
Future expansion also includes training other first responder organizations in our region, and providing an 8-hour class to all of our non-EMS staff. We will be tracking our injury rate as we roll this training out, and we expect to see a significant decrease in the number of injuries caused by aggressive patients. And although our customer satisfaction scores are consistently very high, we expect to see those improve, too. Our employees will have the training they need to stay safe, we will make better use of taxpayer money as our workers comp insurance premiums go down, and our patients and their families will receive the best pre-hospital care possible. It really is a win-win.
Since January 1, 2012, the most common causes of injury among Emergency Services Organization Safety Group members have been strains, slips, trips, and falls, miscellaneous causes, industrial hygiene incidents, and being struck by objects.
During this time period, the causes of injury with the highest average claim costs were motor vehicle collisions, strains, slips, trips, and falls, being caught in, under, or between objects, and being struck by objects.
Common Industry Hazards:
A list of activities or situations that contributed to the safety group’s injuries is provided below in order to raise awareness of common hazards within the industry. After reviewing this list, download the Common Control Strategies document from the Texasmutual.com Safety Resource Center to learn how to protect your employees from these hazards.
Slips, Trips, And Falls:
Being Struck by Objects:
ESO WC GROUP
VFIS of Texas