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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2001-0043-2844, Madison Fire Department, Madison, Wisconsin.
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2001-0043-2844, 2001 May; :1-21
On October 25, 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) to conduct a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) at the Madison Fire Department (MFD). The request concerned the health and safety of fire fighters who responded to a fire at a plastics recycling plant on October 1, 2000. On December 11-14, 2000, NIOSH investigators traveled to Madison to conduct an incident and medical evaluation. The incident evaluation consisted of surveying the remaining structures at the fire ground, examining MFD policies and procedures, interviewing fire fighters who responded to the incident, and reviewing the following records: (a) MFD incident reports and witness statements, (b) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) report, and (c) material safety data sheets (MSDS) of the primary fuel sources. The medical evaluation consisted of: (a) interviewing fire fighters who responded to the incident, (b) discussing the current health and safety program with the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director, (c) reviewing the "first report of injury" forms associated with this incident, (d) reviewing injury reports from the on-scene Rehabilitation (Rehab) unit, (e) reviewing the responding ambulance and medical chart from the one hospitalized fire fighter, and (f) reviewing exposure monitoring conducted two days after the fire. The investigation revealed the following problems during the fire: staffing shortages, communication problems (radios not working and missed information), material shortages in the Rehab area (air bottles and fluids), procedural deficiencies, lack of a pre-incident plan, and lax observance and enforcement of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) use. One fire fighter suffered a life-threatening emergency (unresponsive, elevated blood pressure, rapid shallow respirations, and sinus tachycardia) and other fire fighters reported mucous membrane irritation and respiratory symptoms consistent with, but not specific for, exposure to burning plastic. Other than one critical case and three less critical cases, no other fire fighters reported persistent symptoms. A combination of communications problems, staffing and material shortages, and planning and procedural deficiencies, put the health and safety of fire fighters at risk. One fire fighter suffered a life-threatening emergency and other fire fighters reported mucous membrane irritation and respiratory symptoms consistent with exposure to smoke and burning plastic. It cannot be determined if any long-term health effects will result from smoke exposure at this particular fire. Mandatory annual medical evaluations and periodic medical examinations should be implemented for the entire MFD. Analysis of this data over time may allow the department to determine whether this, or other large fires, are associated with adverse long-term health effects. Additional recommendations are included in the Recommendation Section of this report.
Hazards-Confirmed; Region-5; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Respiratory-irritants; Emergency-responders; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-fighting-equipment; Fire-safety; Self-contained-breathing-apparatus; Respirators; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Cardiovascular-function; Cardiopulmonary-system; Cardiopulmonary-system-disorders; Author Keywords: Fire Protection; fire fighters; firefighters; plastics fire; plastic; burning carpet; burning nylon; incident command system; rehabilitation; rehab; respiratory arrest; mucous membrane irritation; respiratory symptoms; constitutional symptoms
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
NTIS Accession No.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division