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Firefighter Health and Safety Research Collaboration Receives NIOSH Research to Practice Award
Jennifer Williams
August 12, 2020

NIOSH Award
NIOSH Bullard-Sherwood Research to Practice Award.

Bullard-Sherwood Award recognizes research and resulting recommendations and resources for the fire service.

The combined research team from UL FSRI, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) and Skidmore College has been awarded the Bullard-Sherwood Research to Practice (r2p) Award in the Knowledge category for a collaborative effort toward improving firefighter health and safety.

“This prestigious award is a great honor and a testament to the team and their institutional support for many years of hard work, scientific rigor and focus on conducting the research with the fire service. This team, with diverse and complimentary expertise, has made and will continue to make an impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of firefighters globally.”

— UL FSRI Vice President of Research Steve Kerber

While firefighters face a variety of acute risks in their jobs, the two most pressing health vulnerabilities for today’s fire service are occupational exposure to carcinogens (associated cancer risk) and sudden cardiac events (during or shortly after firefighting). Over the past five years, the NIOSH-IFSI-UL-Skidmore research team has completed a series of studies to comprehensively evaluate these risks to firefighters during modern residential fires and common training fires, evaluated exposures and heat stress by job assignment, attack tactic and type of fire, and assessed decontamination procedures for personal protective equipment (PPE) and skin.

The results were then translated into understandable and actionable recommendations designed to catch firefighters’ attention with the goal of impacting future health and safety practices in the station, during training, and on the fireground. This approach culminated in 12 peer-reviewed journal articles, four trade magazine publications, more than 20 presentations to fire service audiences, two online training courses and numerous multimedia resources for the fire service.

Numerous fire departments throughout the country have implemented new policies requiring the routine laundering of their hoods or hood exchange programs, provide skin cleansing wipes or other means of cleaning skin post-fire, and have instituted gross on-scene decontamination practices of their turnout gear to reduce exposures. States across the country, including Florida, Illinois and New York have made decontamination kits and training programs available to departments free of charge. Additionally, fire training academies have implemented administrative controls and substituted fuel packages for less hazardous fuel types to lower exposures for instructors and students. The research has also effected significant changes to national firefighting standards including NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Firefighting and 1585 Standard on Contamination Control.

Click here to see pictures, watch videos and learn more about the Understanding and Controlling Firefighters’ Carcinogenic Exposures series of studies.


About the award:

The Bullard-Sherwood Research to Practice Award recognizes outstanding efforts by NIOSH scientists and their partners in applying occupational safety and health research to prevent work-related injury, illness, and death. These awards highlight efforts that demonstrate noteworthy impact through partnerships.

About the Illinois Fire Service Institute:

The Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) is the statutory State Fire Academy for Illinois. It serves as the oldest continuous fire training institution in the United States. Since 1925, first responders from across the state and world have relied on IFSI to deliver hands-on, innovative, and top-quality training, education, and research. Our Mission: Helping Firefighters Do Their Work Through Training, Information, Education, and Research. IFSI Research is a global leader in firefighter life-safety research. Our research efforts address critical firefighter health and equipment issues and focuses on action-oriented studies that have a direct impact on firefighters’ work, health and safety.

About the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

NIOSH is a research agency focused on the study of worker safety and health, and empowering employers and workers to create safe and healthy workplaces. NIOSH is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its mandate is to assure “every man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” NIOSH has a long history of research and service to firefighters in the United States and is currently leading the development of the National Firefighter Registry (NFR) , a project that will track and analyze cancer trends and risk factors among the U.S. fire service.

About Skidmore College:

Founded in 1903, Skidmore College is a highly selective private, coeducational liberal arts college of about 2,500 students. Skidmore is consistently named one of the “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News and World Report and has recently been recognized as one of “America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges” by Forbes, a “Top College Value” by Kiplinger and one of “The Best 385 Colleges” by The Princeton Review. Travel and Leisure has also called Saratoga Springs, home to Skidmore’s campus, one of “America’s Best College Towns.”

UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute is dedicated to increasing firefighter knowledge to reduce injuries and deaths in the fire service and in the communities they serve.