Injuries 'due to workplace'


The rugged nature of their workplace is the cause of most Northland firefighters' injuries, a fire boss says.

There were four recorded injuries in the Whangarei/Kaipara fire fighting area in 2011, costing $15,091. One resulted in time off work. There were no reported injuries in the Far North/Muriwhenua fire fighting area during the past three years.

Whangarei/Kaipara Fire Service assistant area manager Wipari Henwood said the high level of sprains and strains suffered by firefighters was due to the terrain they worked in - "it's never on flat pieces of concrete".

"If we go to motor vehicle accidents, it's very rarely that the vehicles stay on the flat road - they're in drains and ditches."

Many fires in Northland occurred in rural areas, resulting in firefighters clambering around in rough scrubland, Mr Henwood said. Last week, a young Whangarei firefighter stumbled and sprained his ankle on uneven terrain while training.

"With every job there is some element of risk, within the fire service there is a higher level risk, but the fire service as a whole tries to minimise that risk as much as possible."

Of the country's 1789 full-time and 8371 volunteer firefighters, 448 were injured in 2011 - resulting in $1.2 million in injury-related costs. The Fire Service responded to 68,000 call-outs last year.

New Zealand Fire Service spokeswoman Karlum Lattimore said the organisation had "robust" systems to respond to accidents or near misses.

"If there's something wrong with some piece of equipment or something, we get on to that pretty quickly."

Older occupational injuries that rarely occurred these days included smoke inhalation, burns and broken ankles from firemen poles, she said.

There were 115 burns-related injuries recorded nationally last year - making it the sixteenth most common injury for firefighters.

New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union secretary Derek Best said firefighting was dangerous work and injuries were relatively common. The union worked with the Fire Service to prevent and minimise the number of deaths and injuries on the job, he said.

- Northern Advocate

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