A large majority of municipal operations have departments where heavy equipment is being operated by staff. All heavy equipment requires trained personnel to operate them safely and contribute to an injury-free workplace.Forklift 1

Recent events have resulted in tragic outcomes for highway and public works environments.  Earlier this year, a forklift operator was killed when he was pinned between the rear of the forklift and a metal rack he was working on. The cause of the loss was the forklift being driven by an untrained worker who was unfamiliar with the safe operations of the forklift. This example emphasizes the requirement to have staff be properly trained.

Another recent example resulting in a tragic loss of life, a truck driver/equipment operator was loading an excavator onto a low-boy trailer when the excavator slipped off the side of the trailer, crushing the operator as he was ejected from the seat. The cause of this incident included the operator’s apparent ejection from the excavator onto the ground where the excavator rolled over. The operator was not wearing a seatbelt while moving the excavator and there was no spotter to assist with the loading process.

Unfortunately, there are other examples of equipment operators being injured or killed in the workplace around heavy equipment. Accidents like these include roll-over events, striking loader buckets, falling debris, etc. The key to reducing or eliminating such injuries is training on the safe operation of the equipment and using situational awareness. Only properly trained and knowledgeable staff should be permitted to operate heavy equipment such as loaders, excavators, forklifts, graders, rollers, and others. When untrained staff attempt to maneuver these large and powerful machines, workplace injuries are likely to result.

The causes of loss for most incidents involving heavy equipment are related to untrained or inexperienced operators. Proper training on equipment will educate workers, help prevent future incidents, and provide situational awareness.

For additional information contact:

Robert Blaisdell

Director of Loss Control

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: (518) 330-8591

 First Page Header July 2022B

In This Issue

  • The Comp Alliance Welcomes 8 New Members in June and July
  • June and July Renewal Members to Receive Member Loyalty Award Checks
  • Situational Awareness – The Foundation for Good Decision Making
  • Legislative Update
  • Introducing Bill Rabbitt, Our New Regional Marketing Representative
  • Upcoming Virtual Training Seminars
  • Featured Safety Source Topic – Slip, Trip, Fall Prevention
  • Stay Informed

The Comp Alliance Welcomes 8 New Members in June and July

The Comp Alliance continued its steady growth for 2022 by adding eight new members to the program in June and July.  We welcome the following new members to the program and look forward to working with all of you.

  • Broome Tioga BOCES
  • City of Long Beach VFD
  • Oxford Academy CSD
  • Town of Ellicottville
  • Town of Elmira
  • Town of Irondequoit
  • Village of Hamburg
  • Village of Springville

June and July Members to Receive Loyalty Award Checks

The Comp Alliance is pleased to announce an upcoming distribution of our Member Loyalty Award. In appreciation of those who have contributed to its continued success, the Comp Alliance will distribute a portion of its surplus to members. This special monetary award reflects recognition by the Board of Trustees of fiscal challenges faced by municipalities. The Member Loyalty Award provides a tangible benefit of municipal cooperation by returning funds to local governments and schools for the betterment of their communities.

All members who renewed with or joined the Comp Alliance in June and July will receive their Loyalty Award checks later this summer. Please keep an eye out for your checks in the mail during the 3rd quarter. Awarded amounts will be disbursed based on the individual member's longevity of membership with the Comp Alliance and its annual funding contribution.  

The Comp Alliance is a not-for-profit workers' compensation group self-insurance program for municipalities and school districts. Focusing on improving workplace safety and providing stable funding for its members, the Alliance was formed in the early 1990s. New York Municipalities struggled to budget for unpredictable workers' compensation costs annually. The Comp Alliance offers its members budgetary stability and the opportunity to achieve significant savings by sharing the costs of workers' compensation insurance. Today, the Comp Alliance has over 330 members and more than $66 million in surpluses to help maintain long-term financial stability. 

The Comp Alliance mission statement ensures members meet their long-term workers' compensation liabilities while maintaining stable funding contributions. With sponsorship by the Association of Towns of the State of New York and the New York State Conference of Mayors, the goals of the Comp Alliance remain the same.

Contact a Comp Alliance Marketing Manager or your insurance broker for more information on the Member Loyalty Award Program. Visit the Comp Alliance at www.compalliance.org for more details. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional program enhancements and announcements. 

Situational Awareness the Foundation for Good Decision MakingSituational Awareness

The week of June 19-25 was designated as National Safety Stand Down Week. This is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). The main objective was to promote safety training and awareness to fire departments.  This year’s focus was on situational awareness as the foundation of good decision-making.

The practice of situational awareness can be applied to other aspects of municipal operations and was recently discussed during active shooter training for a municipal operation. The police instructor informed the audience to maintain situational awareness during workplace violence emergencies, as an approach to proper response. To address and maintain safety standards, this thought process can be utilized during town hall, highway, DPW, fire, police, and other operations too. This will also prove beneficial during emergency operations such as natural disasters, workplace violence, water/sewer breaks, fire response, and others.

To have situational awareness is to have a perception of the current environmental conditions, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.  For municipal operations, it involves knowing what is going on around you at any given time and making proper safety decisions based on this knowledge.  It is the foundation for sound decision-making.

With respect to workplace violence prevention, municipal staff can complete active shooter training and improve facility and employee safety through the establishment of safety procedures such as single points of entry, working in teams, installing office barriers, updating camera systems, and installing panic alarms.  In addition to these controls, staff that maintains awareness around their workstations can better protect themselves and colleagues during hostile incidents. Understanding what might be happening and proper response (run, hide, fight) can save one’s life.  In this way, the use of situational awareness can be helpful during workplace violence incidents.

Additional benefits of situational awareness include the completion of routine, but hazardous, work duties.  It can help employees to identify deficiencies in the process and make corrections before injuries occur.  Woodchippers and chainsaws can be the most dangerous equipment used by your municipal highway or DPW staff.  Staff should be trained on the proper use of the equipment prior to use. This includes safety devices and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be worn.  Due to the hazards of operating this equipment, staff with situational awareness can prevent injuries. Precautions can be taken by avoiding too much brush from being placed in the chipper chute, improving footing while handling brush or felling trees, observing poor and changing weather conditions (rain, heat, cold), exchanging worn or missing PPE, replacing absent guards on equipment, or correct staff who might misuse equipment.  These unsafe conditions can occur at any time during the operation and insightful employees can spot them and correct them before they lead to an injury.

Firefighters should practice situational awareness through training with experienced staff to focus on crucial aspects of given situations, knowing what distractions to avoid, listening to commands, and coordinating efforts.

Highway and DPW employees who observe operations, predict safe (or unsafe) outcomes, and maintain (or avoid/remove) them will be safer for their efforts.  As an example, this summer might include a work zone setup.  This will consist of planning the road site, what equipment is needed and available, understanding weather, soil and road conditions, expectations (good and bad) from the public, where to position employees, what PPE will be necessary, and how to react to traffic issues.

Conditions will vary throughout the duration of the work site. If your staff is able to comprehend these changes and respond safely to them it will help keep the area safe for workers and the community.

Situational awareness can also be helpful during other routine operations such as working with hazardous chemicals, driving, snowplow operations, outdoor work in the winter, parks and recreation work in summer, as well as office and administrative duties related to IT use.  The ability to understand a changing work environment, predict what is likely to happen based on these conditions, and make decisions that keep yourself and co-workers safe can be applied to a variety of work responsibilities in municipal operations.

Situational awareness can be improved through experience and training.  One key to safety is to make good, sound decisions based on the current circumstances.  Not everyone makes good decisions all the time.  With experience and training, it will be more likely that the correct decision will be made which keeps employees safe. Police officers who train on arrest techniques, CDL drivers who learn to drive defensively, water and sewer plant operators who know how to respond to a HAZWOPER incident, grounds crew who wear proper PPE while mowing and trimming, etc.

The variety of work completed for municipal operations present employees with continuously changing environments.  These conditions provide opportunities for staff to observe and respond with varying degrees of success.  Employees who are trained and gain experience in tackling these conditions exercise situational awareness resulting in error prevention, performance improvement, and injury reduction.

Legislative Updatelegislation

Several bills amending workers’ compensation law recently passed both the New York State Assembly and the Senate. Three of these bills represent either an expansion of the compensability parameters under the New York workers’ compensation law or provide an increase in a benefit rate.

A.7178A / S.8271A increases the minimum compensation from $150 per week to one-fifth of the NYS Average Weekly Wage.  This amounts to a minimum benefit of $318.91 per week through 2022, and jumps to $337.64 per week in 2023. While this would not affect most full-time employees of NYS municipalities and schools, it may have a sizable impact on the compensation rate for part time, seasonal, or summer workers.  The bill also states that if the worker’s wage rate represents less than 1/5th of the statewide average weekly wage (to be reset at $1,688.19 per week as of 07/01/22), the employee would receive 100% of their wage rate while disabled.            

Another bill, A.1118 / S.0768  defines “temporary, total disability” as  “the injured employee's inability to perform his or her pre-injury employment duties or any modified employment offered by the employer that is consistent with the employee's disability” By defining “total, temporary disability” as it does, this bill poses a number of problems.  First, there is concern among employers that the reference to “modified duty” could be interpreted to place a mandate on employers to offer modified duty to injured employees.  While this is interpretation is not supported by the plain text of the law, it is stated to be the purpose of the law in the sponsor’s memo and justification, and will certainly be the interpretation advanced by claimants and their attorneys.  A mandate of this nature may be impossible for many municipalities to comply with, as it risks violating collective bargaining agreements and civil service laws and rules that prohibit out-of-title work.  In addition, by effectively nullifying “temporary, partial disability”, this bill has the potential to significantly increase costs to employers. 

Lastly, A.2020A / S.6373 lowers the burden of proof for all employees to file claims for work-related stress. This bill extends to all workers the same benefit that was previously granted  to first responders, firefighters, EMT workers, and police officers who encounter emergency situations that involve an extraordinary degree of stress.  The bill eliminates the “work-related emergency” requirement that the mental health issue is caused by an unusual emergency would no longer be in effect, only that the causative event was extraordinary.  Under this bill, the workers’ compensation board “may not disallow the claim upon a factual finding that the stress was not greater than that which usually occurs in the normal work environment.”  Accordingly, the law creates a situation where a claim for “extraordinary stress” cannot be denied because it is ordinary stress common to work environment. It is expected that a vast number of these types of claims that were formerly disallowed by the Comp Board would now be allowed.

The overall impact of these bills would significantly increase the costs of workers’ compensation for all employers. If you are interested in learning more about these bills or how to communicate your position on them, we encourage you to reach out to your respective municipal association.   

Introducing Bill Rabbitt, Our New Regional Marketing Representative

The Comp Alliance is excited to introduce a new Regional Marketing Representative, Bill Rabbitt. Bill comes to us having experience with a carrier and agencies in NY. He has previously managed sales and service for a workers’ compensation program. Bill is from the greater Albany area and looks forward to working with our members in the eastern portion of the state. Bill will be working with our existing agents and members, as well as prospective members of the Alliance. Bill will be reaching out soon and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 518-598-7198.

Upcoming Virtual Training Seminars

The Comp Alliance has several Live Virtual Video Conference Trainings scheduled for our members throughout the months of July andsafety training August.

PESH-mandated topics of Workplace Violence, Right-To-Know – Chemical Safety, and Blood-Borne Pathogens will be covered.

Upcoming Schedule

7/18 - 10:00 a.m. - Noon

7/20 - 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

7/25 - 10:00 a.m. - Noon

7/27 - 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

8/1 - 10:00 a.m. - Noon

8/4 - 10:00 a.m. - Noon

8/8 – 10:00 a.m. - Noon

8/10 - 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

8/15 – 10:00 a.m. – Noon

8/17 – 10:00 a.m. – Noon

8/22 – 10:00 a.m. – Noon

8/25 – 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

8/29 – 10:00 a.m. - Noon

The Comp Alliance also has scheduled several virtual training programs covering the mandatory PESH-required topic of HAZWOPER. This awareness level seminar is required for municipal employees who may be the first upon a hazardous waste emergency on-site or off-site. Recommended for highway, department of public works, and water and sewer sanitation departments.

Upcoming HAZWOPER Schedule

7/21 - 8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.

7/29 – 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

8/12 – 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

8/16 – 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

8/29 – 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

Email Robert Blaisdell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register for any of these training sessions. Attendance is limited.

Please continue to check your email and the Comp Alliance website www.compalliance.org for additional dates later in the year.

Featured Safety Source Topic – Slip, Trip, Fall PreventionSlip Trip Fall Safety Source

The Comp Alliance’s continued partnership with Safety Source, a leader in quality online safety training video content, has enabled many of our members to supplement and/or incorporate Safety Source videos into their safety training program. Safety Source is constantly adding to their video library and updating several topics that municipalities and school districts can utilize to train and educate their staff. 

Slips, Trips, and Falls are one of the leading loss causes for our municipal and school members. Approximately 20% of national workers’ compensation claim costs are attributed to Slip, Trip, and Falls. Safety Source Video SS4164lE addresses the risk presented by slips, trips, and falls and steps you can take to reduce these preventable injuries from occurring.

The Safety Source Library is available by clicking here. If you are not yet registered for access to this diverse video library, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stay Informedcomp alliance twitter image

The Comp Alliance strives to keep members informed of the latest industry and program news. Please visit us at www.compalliance.org for the latest news, updated events calendar, safety articles, safety bulletins and more.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter!


The Comp Alliance is always looking for ways to improve school safety culture through loss control inspections, training, safety committee participation, and safety bulletins. With the start of the school year just a few days away, now is a great time to talk about safety for your school staff, including teachers, maintenance, custodians, coaches, and bus drivers.school bus

As part of this safety focus, we are providing daily safety tips for the week leading up to the opening day of school. Beginning Monday, August 29th, and running through Friday, September 2nd, our safety tips will focus on areas of risk and prevention, where staff can assess the hazard and implement corrective actions to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

These tips will remind staff of the importance of safety, completing injury-free work, and maintaining a positive attitude throughout final preparations for opening day!

Safety Tip #1: School Workplace Injuries – How to Avoid Them

As the start of the school year is upon us, and your staff orientation process begins anew, it is a great time to review safety practices with school personnel. It’s essential to communicate the importance of safe work practices with staff. The basis of a good safety program is for staff to understand where injuries might occur and take proactive measures to avoid them whenever possible.

School district injuries occur most frequently from three sources:  Slips, Trips, and Falls, Back Injuries from Lifting, and Struck/Hit by Student.

Tips for avoiding these causes of workplace injuries include:

  • Avoid slips and falls by reviewing the environment (classroom) and removing any hazards which may pose a problem. Be sure to take precautions such as removing extension cords when not in use, removing worn or frayed carpeting, replacing damaged floor tiles, and providing space for walking around the desks and tables. Keep an eye out for boxes or debris during the first few days of school, especially during move-in periods.
  • Back injuries often occur from unsafe lifting. Practice lifting techniques such as lifting with your legs, keeping your back straight, moving with your legs and not your back, and using mechanical means (cart, hand truck) for heavier items. Staff often take on too much moving and lifting during the classroom moving-in phase, causing back injuries, or creating other strain-type injuries.
  • Struck/Hit by Student is a newer loss area for school employees and includes dealing with students in duress. Students under pressure often do not comply with verbal commands, and adults must intervene with a physical presence (to restrain not injure). Protect yourself when necessary and remove yourself from harm’s way if the situation becomes too dangerous. Get help as soon as it becomes apparent the problem is growing out of control. Maintaining lines of communication with others is vital to get help quickly.

Applying classroom housekeeping and lifting techniques helps remove hazards that lead to injuries. Now is a great time to remind all staff of the risks of injury and the importance of good housekeeping and hazard removal. Educate your school staff on maintaining a positive safety culture, and the school year will likely be an overwhelming success.

The Comp Alliance wishes all our school district members and employees a safe and prosperous 2022-2023 school year!

Safety Tip #2: Safe Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injuries

Training employees to ensure safety and security in the workplace is a school’s top priority. Since custodial work requires moving around extensive facilities and dealing with various hazards, any lack of control of the work environment promotes injuries. While these injuries are minor, they occur frequently.

About 1 out of every 96 employees sustain a nonfatal illness or injury that keeps them from performing their jobs. Learning how to bend, lift, and handle items throughout the day is essential for custodial teams in preventing injuries on the job.

Here are some easy steps they can follow to limit risks and improve janitorial safety.

  • Widen feet for a more stable base.
  • Bend your knees deeply before a lift.
  • Engage your core muscles as you lift.
  • Press down into your legs as you lift.
  • Keep the load close to your body when possible.
  • Ask for help if the object is heavy, awkward, or overhead.

When lifting and emptying buckets be sure to:

  • Use floor drains if available.
  • Use suitable lifting mechanics when emptying the buckets in a floor drain or sink. 

Repeated lifting and carrying of loads increase the risk of back injury. Do not lift anything too heavy. Check the weight to be sure that you are comfortable with the lift.

  • Use handles, cutouts, or handholds.
  • Use carts with large wheels.
  • Bend your knees and lift with your back straight.
  • Plan the lift and talk to your partner.
  • Use lifting equipment wherever possible.

Practicing lifting techniques will help to ensure that the school staff are safe. The Comp Alliance wishes all our school members a healthy and safe 2022-23 school year.

Safety Tip #3: Slips, Trips and Falls: A Loss Leader That Can Be Prevented

Slips, trips, and falls in schools result in strains, sprains, contusions, and fractures are the leading cause of employee injuries in school districts. Below are a few tips to help prevent slip, trip, and fall injuries.

Enforce good housekeeping procedures:

  • Put away supplies/tools/equipment/papers when finished.
  • Dispose of materials no longer being used.
  • Encourage students to practice good housekeeping by keeping backpacks, coats, books, pencils/pens, and other belongings off the floor and out of walkways.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Avoid carrying loads that are awkward or block your view.
  • Observe and watch where you’re going.
  • Watch for hazards such as backpacks, coats, books, binders, supplies, tools, equipment, electrical cords, and other items left in walkways.

During wet or wintery months, your school entryways must have carpets that extend at least six feet inside entrances. This simple measure will keep moisture from shoes to one manageable area and minimize the slip and fall risk throughout hallways and classrooms. Establishing a schedule to regularly maintain outdoor walkways, sidewalks, and doorways is one way to reduce slip and fall risk. Coordinating regular intervals for shoveling and salting is an easy method to prevent slips and falls. Inspecting your outdoor school property regularly for potential hazards is essential. For example, take a few minutes to identify pavement cracks or heaving. If you cannot repair them immediately, spray paint these hazards a bright color to visually focus the eyes and ensure safety for all school visitors. Whether it is a spill in the art room or a mess in the cafeteria, ensure your custodial staff is prepared to attend to these hazards by:

  • Providing custodial staff with the necessary equipment and barricades to keep teachers and students away from slick floors.
  • Ensuring custodial staff has ample cleaning and hazard removal supplies on hand.

Execute indoor safety inspections regularly. Educate all staff members on what to look for and solutions to help them prevent accidents. Staff members should identify and bundle any extension cords out of traffic areas and look for places where moisture can accumulate (classroom sinks and hallway fountains). Classroom storage is essential because improper storage methods can lead to a fall injury. Please encourage your students and staff to wear sensible, weather-safe shoes into the building when weather conditions permit and to change their shoes once they are safely indoors. Consider offering your staff members a shoe storage bag.

Adherence to routine, standard controls can reduce the potential for slip, trip, and fall injuries in school buildings. The Comp Alliance encourages all our school members to maintain safe facilities throughout the 2022-23 school year.

Safety Tip #4: Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures for Teachers and Custodians

Bloodborne pathogens are micro-organisms in human blood that can cause disease. Examples of infections caused by bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis B and HIV. These diseases can be passed from one person to another if exposed to a person's infected blood. There are many guidelines on avoiding or decreasing the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including annual training. Under OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard, employers with exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must train employees annually regardless of the employees' prior training or education. 

Even though not every school employee is occupationally exposed to bloodborne pathogens, it is still crucial for all employees to understand the dangers of infection and recognize safe practices to minimize their risk. 

Workplace Transmission

  • Special Education Area: Students are more prone to injury, may have special medical needs, and depend on adults for personal care.
  • Classroom Settings: Exposures include student injuries, nose bleeds, and even paper cuts. Cleaning up blood creates exposure as well.
  • Kitchen: Cuts from sharp objects, providing first-aid for an injured co-worker.
  • Custodial Exposures: High-hazard, physical work where cuts and scrapes can occur routinely.

Accidental Injury

  • Broken Glass
  • Sharp metal
  • Needles
  • Knives

All teachers and staff must be cautious and protect themselves from a possible bloodborne pathogen transmission. Remember, if a staff member such as a teacher or custodian is possibly exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you should:

  • Wash the exposed area with soap and water and treat all potentially infectious material as if it was contagious. Finish the process with a hand sanitizer application.
  • Routinely use appropriate barrier precautions to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure when any patient's contact with blood or other body fluids is anticipated. Examples of protective controls include gloves, gowns, masks, and protective eyewear.

As a school employee, you must react to emergencies with your heart and your head. Know the facts and take precautions to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogen transmission.

Safety Tip #5: Safety Behind the Wheel

School district transportation departments have always had the vital job of safely getting students to and from school. The duties of a school bus driver are daunting. Many school transportation departments are faced with driver shortages requiring their own workarounds. Best practices cultivate a positive safety culture by enforcing safe driving procedures and encouraging positive attitudes.

Research shows that most accidents involving school buses occur in the Fall months. This is because, at the beginning of the school year, newer routes are learned, inexperienced drivers are behind-the-wheel, and students are learning their bus stop locations and procedures. Proper driver orientation should include job expectations, physical and mental fitness, and fatigue prevention. The driver-required Physical Performance Test is one identifier of a driver's physical wellness. Review the importance of each driver's mental state during the first few weeks of returning to school. Observe drivers, including seasoned ones, who experience stress and fatigue during this time. Dealing with new students can cause stress for some drivers too.

Safety behind the wheel for bus drivers includes:

  • Drive defensively and expect the worst from other drivers. Many times, drivers will approach intersections and look to pull out in front of the bus, sometimes dangerously.
  • Be alert to other drivers who may be unfamiliar with the traffic rules associated with approaching a stopped school bus and expect the worst from on-coming traffic. If you require children to cross in front of the bus, hold students until all required traffic has completely stopped.
  • Come to work mentally prepared to take on the challenges of the position. Start with a good attitude and greet the children in a friendly tone. This has been known to get students to behave better on the bus.
  • Know the safety procedures for the bus. If students are hurt, know how to use the first aid kit. If the bus is involved in an accident or breakdown, follow district procedures, and notify the bus garage personnel.
  • Driving comfort corresponds with safe driving habits. Adjust your seat and mirrors to maintain good posture and viewing angles.

The Comp Alliance looks forward to working with our valued school district members throughout the 2022-23 school year. Have a safe and productive school year!

These tips will be emailed daily and available on our website www.compalliance.org.

Reach out to Robert Blaisdell, Director of Loss Control, for additional information, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (518) 330-8591

This year, the National Fire Fighter Safety Stand Down campaign will focus on situational awareness as the foundation for goodfirefighter decision-making. A joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA), this year’s Safety Stand Down program will take place June 19-25.

Responder agencies are encouraged to focus on training and education related to situational awareness as well as overall fire fighter safety programs. To assist with this training opportunity, the Comp Alliance will provide daily safety tips for our members, which focus on specialty fire department exposures.  Fire fighting is a difficult and dangerous profession and calls for safety awareness and knowledge to minimize risks to all responders. These safety tips should be shared throughout your department and municipal administration as a process to become aware of hazardous exposures and collaborate about solutions to reduce the injury potential. 

Daily Firefighter Safety Tips June 20-24

Tip # 1 - Injury Overview

The week of June 19-25 has been designated as National Safety Stand Down week by a joint initiative by several national fire safetyfirefighters commissions and councils.  Responder agencies are encouraged to focus on training and education related to a variety of hazardous conditions which are most frequently encountered as part of the high-hazard job responsibilities of fire departments.  To get started with the Comp Alliance’s week-long safety tips to focus on training and education for your fire fighters, let’s first review the areas where we see the most workplace injuries occurring for these specialty personnel.

Injuries to fire department staff can originate from several sources and conditions.  The causes of fire personnel injuries can vary significantly but the process to control most of these workplace injuries is similar.  You must maintain the wherewithal to observe the conditions around you.  Develop situational awareness of your environment.

Slip, trip and fall incidents contribute to the most frequent workplace injuries.  This is true for fire departments as it is for just about any municipal department today.  Injuries from slips, trips and falls can be minor or severe, they can include trips over a crack in the walking surface, a fall down a staircase, or a fall inside a burning structure. Firefighter slip, trip and fall injuries occur most frequently at the fire house, as they spend most of their time at this location.  Inspect your facilities for the following hazards:

  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Raised cracks greater than a half-inch in the garage areas
  • Frayed carpets
  • Missing stair handrails
  • Poor lighting
  • Floor obstructions

At the accident scene, however chaotic it appears, avoid slips, trips and falls by maintaining order and accountability and keep the site clear of unnecessary obstructions. Add lighting to improve visibility, arrange hoses so they can be seen and avoided, and make firefighters aware of hazardous icy patches and clear them when possible.

Physical exertion-related injuries are also frequent among firefighters and generally occur during emergency response or training exercises.  These can originate from various causes such as introducing sudden rigorous activities, response to unplanned events occurring in unfamiliar settings, engaging in forcible entries, operating charged hose lines, and others.  Injuries include back issues from lifting, heart conditions from over-exertion or over-excitement, knee pain due to donning heavy turn-out gear, hand and arm injuries from overuse of heavy tools and hoses, and knee and back pain from assisting injured civilians.  Prevention of such injuries includes frequent and controlled training programs, maintaining some semblance of physical fitness, identifying stressors to employees, use of co-workers to assist when needed, use and training with proper tools, and augment firefighters at the incident scene.

Perhaps the most severe injuries sustained by firefighters are burn and inhalation injuries.  Responding to a fire emergency can introduce fire personnel to the inhalation of toxic smoke.  Smoke inhalation causes acute life-threatening injuries and results in long-term lung and neurological damage.  Burn and inhalation injuries can be caused by entering a fire scene without proper PPE, failure of air packs, injuries sustained within the fire scene without timely rescue, or a downed firefighter at the scene.  Incident Command Leaders must maintain focus and awareness at all fire scenes and develop accountability systems for all personnel on-site.

Additional conditions facing firefighters which are likely to lead to injuries include mental and emotional stress, vehicle accidents, responding to emergency calls from the public, and dealing with hostile/aggressive crowds.  Mental and emotional stress contributes to physical and mental fatigue and increases potential for injury.  Monitor your fire department personnel for signs of mental or emotional stress and utilize your municipal Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) when assistance is needed.  Enforce safe vehicle operation policies and standards.  Utilize local law enforcement when necessary to avoid crowd interference with firefighting operations.

One common thread significant to the prevention of injuries reviewed above is the achievement of situational awareness, both in department leaders and firefighters.  Injuries occur from a multitude of sources, but the importance of every person to maintain situational awareness will go a long way to reducing hazards and their associated injuries.

For further information on controlling injuries to fire department personnel, please reach out to the Comp Alliance and the Director of Loss Control, Robert Blaisdell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 330-8591.

Tip # 2 - Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness can be described as the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to current conditions, theFirefighter 2 comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.  For the purposes of Safety Stand Down week and firefighter safety, situational awareness involves knowing what is going on around us at any given time.  It is the foundation for good decision making.

Firefighting involves responding to any number of dangerous and chaotic environments, all of which can be better controlled and deemed safer through the implementation of situational awareness.  Achieving situational awareness relies on one’s ability to perceive, understand and analyze the environment around you in the context of what you are trying to accomplish.  Experience plays positively into one’s ability to achieve situational awareness. Experienced firefighters, or any experienced professional, can achieve greater performance than most rookie or inexperienced workers. 

It is beneficial to have seasoned, safety-conscious firefighters mentor the younger professionals in safety procedures to help firefighters solve problems, prevent bad outcomes and make better decisions in what can be high stress environments.  Situational awareness improves through training and experience by learning to focus on key aspects of any given situation, knowing what distractions to avoid, and listening to commands and coordinating efforts.

For emergency responders, situational awareness involves cooperation from administrative leadership to all fire department personnel.  The backbone of situational awareness includes:

  • The proper implementation of an Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Considering the situation and conditions present
  • Applying experience to predict what future conditions may present
  • Communication of orders to applicable personnel

It is vital to instruct and empower your responders to maintain situational awareness throughout the duration of an emergency event and maintain constant communications with staff to report back what might be dangerous or ever-changing conditions.

Fire departments with an adept sense of situational awareness have a clearer picture and better control of their functions, personnel, and outcomes, with a key focus on employee safety.  When all responders develop and improve their situational awareness, through training and experience, the fire department can improve safety and minimize workplace injuries.

Reference the NFPA website for more details on the Stand Down initiative and situational awareness highlights by clicking here. Additional fire department safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website.  www.compalliance.org

Reach out to Robert Blaisdell, Director of Loss Control for additional information, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (518) 330-8591.

Tip # 3 - Physical Health and Safety Overview

Firefighting requires a high level of physical ability to meet the demands of the job. During the recognition of Safety Stand Down week,Firefighter 3 we look at the demands on physical health for the tasks of firefighting and focus on improvements as part of conditioning programs.

Firefighting can be a very dangerous profession requiring good physical condition to access and use heavy equipment, manage charged hoses, lift accident victims and manipulate around dangerous environments.  An initial physical fitness screening test is completed when first joining the department to confirm proper fitness levels.

Firefighter health and safety is positively associated with proper physical fitness and routine medical screenings.  Strength training can also be an essential part of a firefighter’s physical make-up and maintaining good health. Firefighters and first responders have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiac arrest, and cancer illness. Traditional risk factors, including hypertension, smoking, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, thyroid disorders and other conditions, can often be identified during regular health screenings and routine blood tests. 

In addition to taking care of your medical conditions through annual exams, you must look at your physical conditioning level, keeping in mind all things body appropriate. Age, previous injuries, body type and job requirements all factor into what is an appropriate level of physical ability for a firefighter. Medical evaluations will give you a benchmark from which to begin accepting a realistic set of fitness goals and time-specific exercises. Initial medical exams provide an accurate picture of a firefighter’s baseline health and applying specific wellness programs can improve this medical picture year-to-year.  Cardiac health, oxygen volume, stamina, endurance and strength can all be evaluated utilizing medical exams with testing geared specifically to the firefighter. Stress tests, body fat analysis, cholesterol and triglyceride ratios, and even sugar production are just a few of the values of these examinations, providing greater understanding into what makes a healthy firefighter.

Within the fire service, safety standards such as NFPA 1500 have been developed. There are also fitness standards, such as NFPA 1583 and a medical standard in NFPA 1582. Tests performed during the NFPA 1583 fitness evaluation include aerobic capacity, muscular strength (hands, arms and legs), body composition, muscular endurance, and flexibility.   In addition, there are joint labor and management initiatives in the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs Wellness-Fitness Initiative.

Improving the overall physical health and mental well-being of firefighters has been shown to improve work performance and reduce work-related injuries.  Start a physical fitness routine today and improve your health through diet, exercise, improved sleep, weight training, stress reduction and medical examinations.

For further information on improving safety for fire department personnel, please reach out to the Comp Alliance and the Director of Loss Control, Robert Blaisdell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 330-8591.

Tip # 4 - Turnout Gear

Firefighters require the very best in clothing and equipment to allow them to battle fires and respond to dangerous situations. During the National Safety Stand Down week, we take a look at the requirements of turnout gear, advances in technology and the purpose of donning specific personal protective gear for firefighters.

There is a lot to consider for the firefighter having to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), as it can be heavy, cumbersome and hot.  The average weight of basic firefighter gear is around 45 pounds. This includes boots, pants, coat, gloves, hood and mask. However, the weight can vary greatly depending on what extra gear a firefighter decides to carry with them. In addition, gear gets heavier when it gets wet from the water used to extinguish a fire, from building sprinkler systems, or from natural elements like rain, snow and ice.

Turnout gear needs to provide proper fit and function.  Studies have shown that improperly fitted gear can greatly compromise mobility and even effects the decision-making of firefighters.  Reduced mobility means a firefighter works harder, gets tired easily and suffers dehydration and hypothermia more quickly.   Regular use can put a lot of physical and mental stress on wearers.  Current turnout gear must meet the safety standards of NFPA 1851 for selection, care and maintenance of firefighting protective ensembles. This standard also establishes a maximum service life of 10 years on gear, after it is placed into service, or sooner if rips, tears, defects or heat-related wear are found.

Proper function of turnout gear can be subject to the conditions for which it is needed.  Firefighter situational awareness can contribute to what gear is necessary given a specific condition or response.  It’s important to have the ability to assess the potential hazards and then select PPE that can best address those risks. This will help avoid a situation where the firefighter faces serious injury, dehydration or hyperthermia.  The final call on PPE is made by the Chief, with an understanding by all that the safety and well-being of fire professionals at the scene is of utmost importance. 

Consideration may be given to alternate turnout gear during non-firefighting operations as the “one size fits all” structure fire gear may exacerbate injury risk.  Fire department personnel should conduct a review of PPE performance and use during a post-incident review session.  Review information asking the following questions:

  • What was the overall call assessment?
  • What PPE was used?
  • Was it effective?
  • What PPE could have been used that wasn’t?
  • What would be done differently given a similar call in the future?

The good news for fire crews is that there are ongoing attempts to improve firefighter gear by making it lighter and safer. The current weight and the health risks involved means that even just a couple of pounds decrease, or PPE sized effectively, could have a positive effect on worker safety. It all comes down to being able to use proper-fitting, lighter materials and perhaps fewer layers without compromising the protection against heat and flames.

For further information on firefighter safety, please reach out to the Comp Alliance and the Director of Loss Control, Robert Blaisdell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 330-8591.

Tip #5 - Summer Exposures

Summer conditions, including extreme heat and humidity have a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of fireFirefighter 5 department personnel. Firefighters are increasingly susceptible to the dangers of excessive heat exposure due to their strenuous work in extreme heat, high-stressful situations, and heavy clothing and equipment. Firefighters can overcome these hazards and their associated health complications by understanding the risks and proper preparation for them beforehand.

Heat related illness occurs when our bodies cannot dissipate heat quickly enough and our internal body temperature keeps rising. This will lead to workers experiencing thirst, irritability, heat rash, cramping, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.  Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness and workers may experience decreased work performance, mental dysfunction, unconsciousness, confusion, disorientation, and slurred speech.  Fire departments should learn to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness in themselves and fellow firefighters, and follow reporting protocols should such symptoms be observed.

Make certain personnel do not take “short cuts” with personnel protective equipment (PPE) while attempting to stay cool. Call for extra alarms and resources sooner rather than later. Summertime heat will require augmenting firefighters over a shorter time span, as frequent breaks will be necessary. Remember, help can always be returned if not needed. Wearing turnout gear for an extended time in extreme summer weather will reduce the body’s ability to cool itself by evaporation of perspiration.

Heat exhaustion can be severe and is also caused by an electrolyte imbalance. The firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion will exhibit profuse sweating, nausea, dizziness, headaches and an elevated body temperature. Removal from the environment into a cooler one with the administration of fluids will assist with recovery, but left untreated these conditions can lead to the more serious condition of heat stroke. The key to keeping firefighters safe during extreme heat conditions is hydration. Firefighters should be aggressively hydrating throughout the day prior to getting a call during hot, humid days. Water and other cold fluids containing electrolytes are the most important items that should be consumed to maintain proper hydration during these conditions. Soda or juices have been shown to slow absorption into the body and can have a detrimental effect in these situations. It is recommended that firefighters consume at least 1 quart of water per hour when working at these times. Fire apparatus should carry drinking water for its crew in case the necessary rehab resources are not on scene.

It is important during extreme summer weather to monitor fire personnel and make certain they stay hydrated and continuously operate in a safe manner.

For further information on safe work practices for fire department personnel, please reach out to the Comp Alliance and the Director of Loss Control, Robert Blaisdell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 330-8591

Additional fire department safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website.  www.compalliance.org

Reach out to Robert Blaisdell, Director of Loss Control for additional information, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (518) 330-8591

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