Dr. Harry Carter
Dr. Harry Carter
Editors Column- Saturday, Feb, 27, 2016

Responder Safety Lauds New CDC Safety Effort

It is with a great deal of pride that we here at Respondersafety.com salute a new effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have long reported on firefighter fatalities. Their investigations have assisted us all in making the fire service operational environment safer. They have now turned their attention to a study of motor-vehicle safety for law enforcement officers. They will now study those situations where law enforcement officers dies in ‘struck-by’ incidents.

We have all recognized that law enforcement officers work in dynamic, high-risk traffic situations, driving patrol vehicles and working along the side of the road. Motor vehicle related events are the leading cause of on-the-job deaths for law enforcement officers in the United States.

NIOSH has several research activities and publications focusing on motor-vehicle safety among law enforcement officers. Law enforcement agencies and officers can use the following information to reduce crashes and motor-vehicle related fatalities. According to the most recent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data, there are approximately 698,000 full-time sworn law enforcement employees in the United States.Law enforcement officers face numerous on the job hazards that often occur in a challenging, rapidly changing, and potentially dangerous environment.

Officers are exposed to physical hazards, psychological stressors such as exposure to crime scenes, organizational stressors such as shift work, and various health issues, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, exposure to blood-borne pathogens in blood and bodily fluids, and mental health issues manifested by increased risk for suicide.

Officers also routinely face less recognized job hazards: high-speed driving, driving in inclement weather, and working on busy roadways. In the last 10 years, on average, one officer per week has been killed on our nation’s roads (2005-2014 = 61.9 deaths per year). It should be noted that the majority of these incidents are not ‘struck by’ in nature, but it is our hope that lessons will be learned in those situations where an officer dies in a struck-by incident.

Motor-vehicle related events (including crashes and being struck by moving vehicles while on foot) are a leading cause of work-related fatality among law enforcement officers. In the last decade, motor-vehicle related events outnumbered intentional acts of violence such as being shot, strangled, or stabbed among officers.Officers spend numerous hours behind the wheel, drive in inclement conditions, experience high-speed driving situations, work alongside speeding motor vehicles, and have a multitude of distractions inside the patrol car.

Recently the CDC released Law Enforcement released a study of a fatality in a struck-by incident involving a law enforcement officer. The report is from the Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations Program Report No. LEO 2014-01 – Sergeant Struck by a Motor Vehicle on Interstate Highway – New Mexico .

We here at Respondersafety.com urge you to download this report and review it so that you can learned the lessons which were identified in the study of this fatality. In this way, you can incorporate those lessons into your training programs. We look forward to working with the CDC on this critical effort.

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