The 5 Greatest Disease Risks to Firefighters

Firefighters face serious risks on the job such as heat exhaustion, burns, physical and mental stress. Additionally, they frequently come into contact with high levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic hazards. With these dangerous exposures, this line of work presents a likelihood for many diseases. Firefighters who smoke or engage in other unhealthy lifestyle habits are at even a greater risk. Smoking increases the risk of getting heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, stress, and poorer treatment outcomes for certain diseases, such as hepatitis.

1. Heart Disease

Heart attacks account for 45 percent of all work-related deaths among firefighters. This risk is elevated during the act of firefighting itself. It can be the result of intense work near hot fires, exposure to carbon monoxide, and other stresses associated with the job. Lack of physical fitness, being overweight, and smoking make these risks higher.

Firefighters who also smoke have a higher risk from CO and other pulmonary issues. High levels of physical and mental stress make the heart require more oxygen; however, breathing in more CO reduces the amount of oxygen a firefighter receives. This can cause heart attacks from both coronary artery disease and from abnormal heart rhythms.

2. Cancer

According to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study, firefighters are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with invasive cancer than the average person. Firefighters commonly come into contact with dangerous, cancer-causing materials when they fight a fire. Firefighters are at increased risk of getting cancers of the colon, brain, bladder, kidney, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

3. Chronic Respiratory Disease

The worst impacts of lung illness can strike experienced firefighters, especially those who smoke. Firefighters are exposed to numerous respiratory risks that can cause significant and permanent lung damage. Beyond work-related exposure to burning chemical substances, a firefighter who smokes cigarettes can be contaminated by the same burning substances, only to dramatically increase their risk of chronic respiratory disease.

4. Hepatitis B and C

Firefighters are often the first emergency workers to arrive at a fire or a medical emergency. They can then easily come into contact with blood that may have been contaminated with the hepatitis B and C viruses.

5. Stress

Firefighting is an extremely demanding, high pressure job. Enough stress can cause many illnesses in the body, since our mental health is directly correlated with our physical health. Also, those under stress tend to smoke more and find it harder to quit.

For a firefighting operation, there are certain important steps to take in order to ensure that your team members remain healthy and do not succumb to these illnesses or health conditions as a result of their work. Workers’ Compensation insurance may not cover all of the potential perils of a firefighting career (for example, most policies come with many restrictions on heart attacks), so offering Accident & Health Insurance and Group Critical Illness policies will provide comprehensive coverage to your team members. An occupational injury or illness can be a terrible thing, but with the right insurance offerings and workplace health and safety measures, it does not have to be the end of an employee’s career.


About Provident Insurance Programs

With roots dating back to 1902, Provident Insurance Programs is an insurance agency that serves paid and volunteer firefighters in addition to emergency medical responders with numerous custom-tailored insurance programs. We’ve also extended our expertise and experience to offer benefit plans and coverages to participant groups as well as Transportation Benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide superior customer service, and would be happy to speak with you to provide further information. Give us a call today at (855) 201-8880 to speak with one of our representatives.