Fire Investigator Health & Safety


Health & SafetyIn these unprecedented times of COVID-19 it is vitally important to take necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others anytime we are outside of our own home. The same health and safety practices FOCUS has always taken at fire scenes apply to any public meeting we may be a part of today. FOCUS can safely document any scene: fire, water, wind, other structural damage thereby limiting the time you need to spend on the scene.

There are a vast array of slogans regarding health and safety today, especially in the realm of COVID-19.

Some are catchy, some are questionable, some are ... ???

However you want to consider safety, it is crucial in any workplace environment.

My all-time favorite slogan comes from the firefighting side of things but still applies to any work environment. "Everyone goes home" This is also a web page dedicated mainly to firefighter safety but, again, can be adapted and applied to every work environment.

As the past Chair of the IAAI's Health and Safety Committee for three years, I researched and learned a great deal about health and safety. We were, and the Committee still is, focused mainly on fire investigator health and safety, and the long term effects of not complying with good health and safety guidelines. The Committee has published Standard Operating Procedures and Health and Safety Best Practices. (appendix C of the best practices has guidelines for investigator annual physicals)

I have seen insurance adjusters, contractors, homeowners, legal counsels, and several others wearing their street clothes roaming around in the same fire scene, while I'm wearing bunkers/coveralls/Tyvek and my N95 respirator. I have even seen other investigators who should know better on scene wearing street clothes, no gloves, and (maybe) rubber boots. One eventful joint scene inspection that stands out for me was watching one of the investigators, who DID know better!, eat lunch in a restaurant without even washing his hands. I have watched fire investigators who were being safety conscious fall through floors, trip over debris, slip on ice, bang hardhats (fortunately not his head) on pieces of collapsed buildings, etc.

The Main Point

On any scene, fire or other, you need to keep safety first in mind.

One of the biggest hazards that exists on a fire scene is a hazard we don't readily see. Carcinogens. We know that cancer frequently attacks firefighters and fire investigators. We haven't studied cancer rates in other groups who frequent fire scenes. We don't know the latency (time from exposure to onset) of cancer. We are just learning what and how exposures are affecting firefighters and fire investigators.

In today's COVID-19 world, we still don't understand the full extent of it. Like carcinogens, we don't see the COVID-19 virus during our on scene visit. While the virus may have been killed by the fire, we need to consider the exposures we may receive as we visit the scene (any incident claim scene) and talk to people, walk around the scene, or handle other's personal property items at a claim scene.

One Solution

Most of the safety measures we are supposed to be taking today have been practiced by FOCUS Fire Investigations fire investigators for a couple of decades. Outer layers of garments (bunkers, coveralls, chemical suits), respirators/masks, gloves, and the list goes on.... The major addition to today's safety is wearing a mask during any public interaction.

FOCUS Fire Investigations can very easily handle the on scene inspections, interviews, and documentation necessary for your claim handling. This allows you to spend less time on scene and still have all the information you need to handle the claim. If it's just documentation of an incident scene we will charge far less than our published rate for fire investigation.