Workers who are injured on the job often lose a big part of themselves when they are unable to work. Take, for example, the young firefighter who was so severely burned that he cannot return to his career after being seriously injured. Even though workers compensation can heal the pocketbook, it can rarely soothe the emotional scars that come along with serious work-related injuries.
The heart-wrenching tale of the Maryland firefighter begins on Feb. 24, 2012, when seven crews were dispatched to a small house fire. The young man, age 21 at the time of the accident, arrived at the fire just three minutes after the alarm was sounded at the station. Even though the home had been abandoned for some time, according to neighbors, a vehicle was parked in the house's driveway. The injured firefighter was assigned to the search-and-rescue squad that sought out survivors in the fire.
Soon, the young man and his partner were inside the house. Instead of abiding by company procedure, however, the firefighter team allowed the hose team to follow behind them. The hose team is always supposed to precede a firefighter who is entering a structure. As a result, when the door of the house closed and the fire surged toward them, the pair had few options. The first floor turned into an inferno, with the young man and his coworker becoming trapped. The other man, who was smaller, was able to escape through a window, but the victim in this case was too large to fit through the opening.
When the man was finally rescued, his survival gear was on the verge of imminent failure, according to analysis. Ultimately, a report showed that numerous mistakes were made by both the injured firefighters and their supervisors. The firefighters in this case were not interested in assigning blame, but they learned important lessons that will help keep others safe in the future.
Burn victims deserve access to workers' compensation funds because of the long-term and intensive treatment involved in their care. Burns are among the most devastating injuries because of the potential for infection. These firefighters have received workers' compensation, even though they were volunteer firefighters at the time of the blaze.
www.washingtonpost.com, "Cold air. Then heat. Then terror." J. Freedom du Lac, Oct. 12, 2013