Soaring injury rates, serious accidents prompt fire commission review

Always Investigating

The Honolulu Fire Commission wants to review policies and injury data in the wake of fatal and serious accidents, and a rising rate of firefighters getting hurt on the job.

Always Investigating revealed a firefighter was seriously injured after falling from a helicopter basket last month. This followed a deadly ocean training accident this summer.

The Honolulu Fire Department says interim changes have been made, but they’re awaiting incident investigations.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told Always Investigating last week that he wants the fire commission to investigate, and to review training and safety procedures.

The commission met Wednesday for the first time since the video was broadcast.

“To date, the mayor has not asked us to do any type of investigation,” said commission chairman James Wataru, “but we have, as a commission, asked the fire chief for the current policies and procedures regarding the watercraft safety and the helicopter.”

Always Investigating also analyzed more than five years of on-the-job injuries and found the number of reports per year has doubled in that time, from 143 in year 2015, to 303 in year 2015, and already 254 so far in 2016.

The injury rate — 23 per 100 firefighters — is about double the national average of 12.1 per 100 for firefighters. Honolulu has a lower-than-average rate of “lost-time” incidents — injuries that result in downtime off the job for recovery — at 5.6 per 100 locally versus the 7.6 per 100 national average.

“We also want to look into the types of injuries, so we’ve asked the chief to also provide for us a list of injures, all injuries, whether it’s strain or a burn or exposure, so we can get a better idea of what’s going on in the field and the type of injuries that are happening,” Wataru told Always Investigating, “and then with that, we can get a better understanding as to the overall numbers they’re giving us.”

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