Firefighter Training

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH PROGRAMS FOR FIRE INVESTIGATORS

Issue 6 and Volume 159.

BY MICHAEL L. DONAHUE Today’s fire investigators face increasingly dangerous environments and conditions while conducting fire scene investigations because of the widespread use of building materials and furnishings manufactured from plastics, foams, and polymers that may pose numerous short- and long-term health hazards. These synthetic materials represent fuel loads that produce highly toxic by-products of combustion that have the potential to cause personal injury, illness, and chronic occupational diseases unless personnel use effective protective measures. The safety and health of fire investigators are often taken for granted; many investigators incorrectly assume that by the time they arrive at a fire scene, the potential hazards are eliminated or diminished to the point where such hazards are no longer a concern. (1) Fire investigators may be exposed to physical hazards and numerous toxic hazards from plastics and other synthetic building materials that may cause acute and chronic health effects days, months, or…

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