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Workplace injuries: Ergonomic toll on public safety workers

Public safety workers in California and other states are reported to be particularly vulnerable to certain injury types. Safety authorities say firefighters, EMTs and police officers suffer more musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular diseases than employees in other industries. Also, these public safety workers are often involved in auto crashes and incidents of workplace violence that cause workplace injuries.

Injury data indicates that the average number of lost workdays caused by musculoskeletal disorders in other industries is 13, while firefighters lose 15, correctional officers lose 24 and law enforcement officers lose 27 median days per year. When it comes to cardiovascular diseases, the stress experienced by public safety workers is suspected of increasing the risks of heart attacks, diabetes and hypertension. Authorities say the typical trauma and stress experienced by these workers during every shift are many times the levels suffered by other workers over time. Over half of the on-the-job fatalities among firefighters involve cardiovascular diseases.

Due to the speed with which police officers, firefighters and EMTs have to respond to incidents of public safety, many auto crashes occur. Furthermore, vehicles frequently strike first responders while they attend to victims at crash scenes. The risk of aggression at crime or accident scenes remains real, especially in areas where gangs are active. Workplace violence is also prevalent among correctional officers who are frequently the victims of assault by inmates.

Victims of workplace injuries in the public service sector of California are usually eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Some of the health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes are presumed occupational in this industry. However, some might find the benefits claims process daunting, and that is when the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be invaluable.

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