Home Industry News Musculoskeletal disorders are rising among firefighter

Musculoskeletal disorders are rising among firefighter

by Marcus
Musculoskeletal disorders are rising among firefighter

Musculoskeletal disorders are rising, and behind almost a MONTH of lost firefighter hours per sufferer, per year

Fire services could be losing an average of 25 staff days per year, for each team member affected by poor musculoskeletal health – thought to be around one in four firefighters.

Luxfer, the industry-leading manufacturer of lightweight, durable, high-performance SCBA cylinders investigated the prevalence and impact of MSK issues in a bid to help shape future innovations, with the weight of cylinders a key consideration.

Based on figures released to Luxfer by London Fire Brigade[1], which has a workforce of over 5,500 operational staff:

  • In 2019, 26% of staff took sick leave due to MSK disorders.
  • During the period 2018-2021, staff each took off an average of 25 working days because of poor MSK health.
  • FIVE TIMES as many staff were absent from work between 2018 and 2021 due to MSK injury than mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety or depression.
  • However, while many more fire staff cite MSK problems for work absence, the average number of days off due to mental health sickness is much higher, on average 84 days in 2021 (compared to 22 days for MSK leave in 2021).
  • In 2021, 1,435 people took leave for MSK sickness and 257 for mental health sickness – both higher than the previous three years.
  • In the same year, MSK injury was so severe that it prompted six firefighters to seek ill health retirement.

Musculoskeletal injury refers to damage of muscular or skeletal systems and can affect bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. At its most serious, the condition can cause pain so severe it is disabling, with those affected unable to perform daily tasks. Despite such significant prevalence of MSK sickness, little research exists in the UK on the topic, or around weight of SCBA cylinders as a factor.

It is an area of focus for Luxfer, with the manufacturer’s latest cylinder technology ECLIPSE™ Pro3 featuring a lightweight design that maintains the performance and quality required when breathing matters most. The innovative ECLIPSE™ Pro3 range is being showcased at Interschutz from 20 June 2022 in Hannover, Germany.

Mark Lawday, Vice President and General Manager at Luxfer Gas Cylinders, says: “The data we’ve unearthed shows that musculoskeletal injury is a big problem impacting firefighter health, and worryingly, it appears to be worsening.”

“Given that the average professional firefighter’s personal protective equipment weighs 75lbs (34kg), every weight saving helps. That’s why we offer a range that is up to 20% lighter than competitive aluminum lined (Type 3) SCBA cylinders.”

“We manufacture over one million cylinders every year, which are safe to operate in the most extreme environments. Our team of designers and engineers are pioneering new technologies in gas containment, because we know minimising the weight burden on the back of the firefighter can make a positive difference to them, and the fire service as a whole.”

While conventional carbon composite SCBA cylinders use a full fiberglass overwrap, Luxfer ECLIPSE™ Pro3 features an advanced, high-strength aerospace-grade carbon wrap design, eliminating the need for this layer, without compromising strength, durability and safety.

A separate, small-scale study conducted by Luxfer[2] reinforced the scale of the problem posed by MSK disorders, reporting that:

  • 80% of those polled have experienced an MSK issue
  • Almost half (46%) have been affected by an MSK issue for up to a year
  • The knee was the area of the body most impacted (cited by 55%) followed by lower limbs and back (both 45%), neck (36%) and upper limbs (27%).
  • Almost three in four (73%) said MSK pain has stopped them from carrying out normal daily activities
  • A musculoskeletal issue has caused reduced performance at work for 64% of firefighters who responded
  • An MSK problem had required 73% to take time off work

For further information on Luxfer’s SCBA range, visit: www.luxfercylinders.com/products/scba

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