J Korean Med Assoc.  2008 Dec;51(12):1111-1117. 10.5124/jkma.2008.51.12.1111.

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Firefighters

  • 1Korea Occupational Safety & Health Agency, Korea. skk@kosha.net


Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) arising from repetitive work, awkward working postures and exerted force have the potential to occur in almost every workplace. In 2007, WMSDs took 67.3% of the total occupational diseases compensated as industrial accident. Firefighters in particular, are more exposed to the risks of low back pain because they encounter many cases of excessive exertion in unexpected situations. However, the employer (government) and the employees (firefighters) awareness on WMSDs is rather low when compared to the attention given to the industrial accidents. Firefighters' tasks include lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and moving heavy objects with fully equipped turn out gear. These assigned tasks require excessive force and often occur in uncomfortable situations. In some cases, tasks are performed in undesirably high or low temperature environments. Some workers such as emergency call operator retain a static position for long working hours. In addition, the boundaries of fire protection tasks in Korea have extended to include emergency management since 1999, exposing firefighters to the greater risks of WMSDs. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association report, strain and sprain took more than 40% of injuries occurred during fire ground operation in 2005. In Korea, 2007, it was reported out of 30,630 firefighters, 279 were involved in work-related accident or injury. Even though there was no exact information reported on WMSDs, it must be acknowledged that during performing fire protection tasks, injuries including low back pain, sprain, strain, and more easily occurs. Also when treating the injured fire prevention related workers, its work-relatedness must be considered, because prevention will become a reality only if work-relatedness is fully understood. Therefore, in order to reduce the occurrence of WMSDs in fire protection related workers, risk factors of WMSDs must be continually reviewed and managed, and all workers must be educated on WMSDs prevention.


Firefighter; Occupational disease; Work-related musculoskeletal disorders(WMSDs); Ergonomics

MeSH Terms

Accidents, Occupational
Human Engineering
Low Back Pain
Occupational Diseases
Risk Factors
Sprains and Strains


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