The readers’ forum

Consider circumstances that sideline firefighters

 

The Sept. 18 story, More than 200 Miami-Dade workers paid to take it easy, regarding light duty work failed to detail why a higher percentage of firefighters are put on light duty in comparison to our colleagues in other county departments.

Given the dangerous nature of the job, are the numbers so surprising?

Readers need to know that firefighters are not allowed to perform their normal duties or get on a truck if they have “every day” injuries such as open wounds, twisted ankles, torn ligaments, back strains or sprains.

Every day on every call, firefighters wear 45 pounds of gear and carry 70 pounds of equipment.

We lift patients. We move stretchers. Shoulder, knee and back injuries are the most prevalent types of injuries after years of wear and tear on the body.

Readers may also be unaware that firefighters have much higher cancer rates than the general population due to carcinogen exposure.

They are exposed to infectious diseases more than the general population and the suicide rate is much higher – possibly because of long-term exposure to stressful situations and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every two years, firefighters are required to pass a physical exam administered by the county.

Even if manageable medical situations are discovered, such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, a member of our team can be put on the sidelines and must fight to return to full duty and get back on the truck.

We completely agree that any abuse of the system must be investigated and stopped.

However, we should be cautious not to create in haste a system of bureaucracy that fails to recognize the totality of the circumstance and deprives our first responders of the medical help and rehabilitative services they need to carry out their duty of service to our citizens.

Michelle Steele, second vice president, Metro Dade Firefighters, IAFF Local 1403, Miami

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