90% of firefighters suffer psychological trauma, expert tells Knesset committee

Safety engineer Dr. Mark Lugasi presented research into the situation of firefighters: More than 43 percent have been hurt in work accidents.

January 1, 2014 02:34
1 minute read.
A fireman prepares equipment in Beit Shemesh.

A fireman prepares equipment in Beit Shemesh.. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Nine out of 10 firemen suffer from symptoms of psychological trauma, according to an expert who spoke before a session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday.

The meeting was part of a day to honor the Israel Fire Service and its personnel.

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Safety engineer Dr. Mark Lugasi presented research into the situation of firefighters: More than 43 percent have been hurt in work accidents.

Fully 24% of those who actually fight fires suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 67% suffer from partial trauma – compared to 5% and 45%, respectively, in the general population.

According to Lugasi, firemen who undergo blood tests have significantly higher cholesterol and glucose levels than the general population.

“They are exposed to a wide variety of dangers, including collapsed buildings, dangerous chemicals, missiles and rockets, accidents, terrorism, natural disasters and more,” he continued.

The chief of the Fire Service, Shahar Ayalon, added firemen have poor lifestyles and quality of life. “There is inadequate information and research into the field. Quite a few firemen suffer from cancer and are being treatment. Much needs to be done in this field,” he said.

“The government does not recognize any medical condition as an occupational disease among firemen,” said Lior Tomashin, a lawyer representing them. “The ‘workplace’ of firemen changes all the time, so one can never prove a connection.

In addition, some occupational diseases break out a decade after exposure. So far, the National Insurance Institute has recognized eight types of cancer as connected to the profession, but every [disability] committee physician can decide differently about the disease.”

The lawyer added that firemen do not undergo periodic health checkups, and many die as a result of chronic diseases.

Yeshayahu Bar-Dov, deputy director-general for manpower in the Fire Service, promised that it will appoint an occupational physician and carry out periodic tests, as well as give regular sessions on protection. During the third quarter of 2013, 60 firefighters were injured, 60 more developed illnesses that lasted more than two weeks and four were diagnosed with cancer.

Deputy Knesset committee chairman Ya’acov Marji (Shas) said that if regulations to recognize occupational diseases among firefighters are not put in place, he would initiate legislation to do so. “We are not a Third World country,” he said.

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