Emergency services workers are among the most admired professionals in Australia. Whether it’s fighting fires, saving lives or preventing crime, first responders regularly put themselves in danger to protect citizens.
However, new figures have shown that this bravery comes at a cost. First responders are over three times more likely to make a workers’ compensation claim than other employees, suggesting that injuries and illnesses are a common hazard.
The data, published in the Injury journal, found that female staff and individuals aged between 35 and 44 had the highest claim rates. Policing was the most dangerous profession, with officers showing the highest risk of mental health problems in addition to physical injuries.
The results echo statistics compiled by Safe Work Australia (SWA) last year, which showed 22 police officers, 21 firefighters and four paramedics had died doing their jobs in the country since 2003.
Forty per cent of first responder fatalities are due to vehicle collisions, but even those who survive crashes can suffer serious mental and physical injuries following the incident.
Peter Kirwan, a former firefighter, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he had felt “bulletproof” when he first started his profession, but this quickly changed after a fire truck crash damaged his back.
“As a 30-year-old, having what you had seen as your life path dramatically change direction is something I didn’t anticipate,” he explained.
“If someone had said, prior to my breakdown, that I was suffering depression and anxiety, or heading down that path from chronic pain and related injuries, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Mr Kirwan said the public imagine first responders as larger-than-life characters who run towards danger when everyone else is fleeing in the opposite direction.
“At the end of the day, we are still human,” he added.
Workers compensation claims are most commonly for mental stress, according to SWA, with 13 per cent of serious claims due to psychological issues. Meanwhile, 7 per cent reported injuries from lifting and carrying people, while 5 per cent sought compensation after an assault.
Unfortunately, workers compensation claims aren’t always approved, which can leave individuals vulnerable to financial pressures at a time when they’re already struggling with injuries or illnesses.
If you’ve had a workers compensation claim rejected, please discuss your case with an experienced lawyer at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.