Evaluation of wildland fire fighter exposures during fuel reduction projects
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Evaluation of wildland fire fighter exposures during fuel reduction projects

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    "The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a state-based wildland fire management program who was concerned about potential exposures to hand-transmitted vibration, wood chipper dust, noise, and carbon monoxide related to chain saw and wood chipper use among wildland fire fighters. The requestors were also concerned about safety climate and job stress issues among wildland fire fighters. This state agency's fire crews participated in fuel reduction projects when not engaged in fire suppression or training. We conducted three site visits; pre- and post-fire season visits in 2015 in which informal interviews were conducted focusing on general medical issues, psychosocial factors, and job stress. A third visit occurred in April 2016 where we evaluated carbon monoxide, wood dust, noise, and hand-transmitted vibration. Fire fighters also completed questionnaires covering work history and current tasks. Our evaluation found that these fire fighters were overexposed to carbon monoxide, wood dust, noise, and vibration. Although average carbon monoxide concentrations measured on fire fighters were low, peak exposures exceeded relevant occupational exposure limits. Combined exposure to noise with carbon monoxide exposure can worsen the resultant hearing loss, highlighting the importance of reducing exposures to both. Several fire fighters reported symptoms that could be consistent with work-related asthma. Overall, wildland fire fighter employees reported a strong safety climate, favorable perceptions of various psychosocial factors at work, and moderate job stress. Employees reported decreased sleep quality at the end of the season. We recommended reducing chain saw use to three hours or less during a work shift, requiring use of hearing and respiratory protection, communicating with fire fighters about job demands, maintaining chain saws to reduce exposures, and encouraging fire fighters who develop health symptoms related to work to get evaluated by their healthcare provider." - NIOSHTIC-2 NIOSH no. 20055365 Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH [2019]. Evaluation of wildland fire fighter exposures during fuel reduction projects. By Ramsey JG, Eisenberg J, Wiegand D, Brueck SE, McDowell TW. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Hazard Evaluation Report 2015-0028-3330, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/ pdfs/2015-0028-3330.pdf.
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