$2.3 Million in Grants to Fund Firefighter Safety Research at UA College of Public Health

Firefighters have a high risk of work-related injuries but little research exists to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and strategies for reducing accidents.
Jeff Burgess, MD, MPH, a professor in the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH), has been awarded $2.3 million for two national research grants to study and prevent injuries among firefighters.

Dr. Burgess, director of the college’s Division of Community, Environment and Policy, has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a three-year international comparison of fireground injuries and standard operating guidelines among fire departments in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

According to Dr. Burgess, firefighters have a high risk of work-related injuries but little research exists to evaluate policies and strategies for reducing accidents in this stressful and physically demanding occupation. An international comparison of firefighter injuries and protocols will help identify best practices for fire departments from around the world.

“Firefighters put their lives on the line for us every day,” said Dr. Burgess. “It’s an honor to be able to help them find methods for carrying out their duties in as safe a manner as possible.”

Additionally, Dr. Burgess has received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The money will be used to conduct a four-year study to evaluate the effectiveness of a risk management approach to reduce injuries among Tucson Fire Department firefighters.

The NIOSH grant is based on work completed by Jerry Poplin, currently working on his doctorate in Epidemiology at MEZCOPH. In his research, Poplin found the introduction of risk management regulations was associated with a reduction in work-related injuries in Australian mining operations. Dr. Burgess and Poplin hope the introduction of the risk management process will help reduce firefighter injuries in three high-risk areas: physical exercise/drilling, transporting of patients and fireground operations.

“The Tucson Fire Department is a great organization. We will study their operations associated with higher injury rates and determine the best ways of carrying out these operations more safely,” said Dr. Burgess.