As people run away from danger, our First Responders run to it and their health is often overlooked in the aftermath of an emergency event.
Post-Incident testing is a proactive way to prepare employers for supporting their employees in the event of accidental or overexposure to harmful toxins.
CBC reports that 5.7 million litres of crude oil have leaked into the water, and that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found in crude oil) were 394,444 times higher than the standard level for surface waters. The blast from the explosion and the remaining toxicity in the air result in the need for post-incident testing for non-evacuated emergency professionals. How else would workers know if their protective equipment was working? Pollution and contamination from the train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec is another reminder of the importance of medical surveillance and the need for post-incident testing for First Responders so employers can ensure they have a clean bill of health. In 2005, after the Air France crash transpired at the Toronto Pearson Airport, we offered medical testing for First Responders. One hundred and fifty medical evaluations were conducted including blood work testing for enzymes in the liver and kidneys. Individual improvement plans were developed to remove air toxins from organs that showed potential long-term health issues The same post-incident testing occurred for the City of London firefighters who were exposed to chemicals and gases in a major fire. If medical surveillance is not conducted, an employer will never know how emergency job conditions impact their workers.
6 Steps to Post-Incident Testing:
- Develop a post-incident policy outlining when and why mandatory post-incident medical testing is required.
- Integrate post-incident policy with other post-incident mandates and procedures.
- Ensure support and communication from management to front line First Responders.
- Obtain medical direction and support from an experienced occupational health facility.
- Confirm availability and quick response time will occur for medical testing.
- Include follow-up and return-to-work procedures for those medically affected.
An occupational health facility with experts in the field can provide employers with the types of risks and incidents that are relevant to their industry. Our very own occupational physician Dr. Tee Guidotti, MD, MPH, DABT has been involved in studies on the toxicology of combustion products since 1973 and on firefighters since 1985. He has written a paper on the Critical Study of the Association Between Disease and Occupation as a Firefighter that illustrates the impacts of the work environment to a firefighter’s health. To find out more about our medical surveillance program, we invite you to download our occupational health programs guide or contact us