TUCSON – The Tucson Fire Department is working to prevent cancer in the workplace. The department implemented a number of procedures to protect its firefighters.
“Cancer has become the leading risk to health and safety for firefighters,” said Tucson Fire Battalion Chief 4, Greg Hoffman.
Hoffman has been a firefighter for 15 years and says he has been worried about the risk of getting cancer.
“It’s something you don’t think about while it’s going on,” Hoffman said. “But certainly, having a family of my own as I go home, the thought goes through my mind – in the future, is this going to lead to cancer?”
TFD partnered with the University of Arizona to conduct research into what causes work-related cancer, and how it can be prevented.
UA’s research was able to highlight the risks of exposure for Tucson firefighters, and mitigate that risk by implementing ‘washdowns’. A washdown involves a firefighter rinsing off with soap and water after fighting a fire.
“That removes about 80 percent of the soot and cancer-causing stuff that is on us,” Hoffman said.
Other procedures implemented include cleaning the cabs and having fire engineers on air.
Another useful tool is the National Fire Operations Reporting System app. The app is part of a 30-year cancer surveillance survey done by the UA. It can be downloaded by any firefighter across the country.
The app gives firefighters a chance to log their risks of exposure and report when they’ve responded to a traumatic incident.
“Everybody should be downloading it,” Hoffman said. “We should see some of the outcomes of it soon.”
Hoffman said the great thing about the new procedures is that they’ve been sharing them with other fire departments in southern Arizona. They hope that it will help protect more firefighters on the job.