In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5175 creating a new system for safer workplace practices in the fire service and a workers’ compensation premium discount for employers. The legislation pertains only to state-insured workers’ compensation employers who file injury claims to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Much work has been done since the passage of that bill, and roll-out of a pilot program entitled Firefighter Injury and Illness Reduction (FIIRE) will take place in May 2021.
The FIIRE Pilot Program is a pilot safety initiative for fire departments with two objectives: to reduce fire fighter occupational injuries and illnesses; and demonstrate commitment to safety through proactive risk management and implementation of best practices in collaboration with fire fighters. The FIIRE Pilot Program was developed by L&I in partnership with representatives from the Washington Fire Chiefs and the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters.
Employers who meet the eligibility criteria and demonstrate a commitment to workplace safety and health may receive a discount on their workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Participants may also qualify for funding to purchase safety equipment through the Firefighter Safety Program Grant. The pilot program will last two years, and fire departments must engage for at least one.
The FIIRE Program requires several safety improvements by the fire department to get a premium discount on rates which include:
- Robust Safety Committee
- Strengthen safety committees with L&I-provided proactive risk management training to improve the ways in which hazards are assessed and mitigated.
- Optimize safety committee activities based on training, including applying proactive risk management principles to hazard identification, accident investigations, and injury/near-miss reporting.
- Assess the fire department’s safety and health programs using the Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP) survey and refine the Accident Prevention Program based on VAP results.
- Assess safety culture using the Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey and attend FOCUS Safety Culture Camps. (embed link
- Safety Improvement Plan
- Develop and implement a tailored safety improvement plan that integrates assessment results, risk management training, and safety and health best practices to address carcinogen exposures and musculoskeletal injuries related to patient transport and equipment handling.
- Actively monitor and adjust the Safety Improvement Plan for effectiveness.
- Return-to-Work Programs
- Develop plans to incorporate Return to Work, Stay at Work, Kept on Salary, and other incentives to improve outcomes for injured fire fighters and mitigate time-loss costs to the department.
- Firefighter Safety and Health Collaborative
- Participate in the Firefighter Safety and Health Collaborative.
The FIIRE pilot program is a huge step forward to better understanding the culture within each fire department. It also provides a path for making improvements based on analytical assessment on current processes. We expect, over time, that improvements to culture and process will lead to fewer injuries that reduce cost and time-loss for injured workers and result in more proactive safety improvements for all fire fighters in Washington State.
Fire departments that participate in the FIIRE Pilot Program need to be active in the Firefighter Safety and Health Collaborative. This will be a new collaborative, and the only participants will be those taking part in the pilot program. We recognize that more health and safety collaboratives exist within our state, though the success of FIIRE is also dependent on the collaboration within this focus group during the pilot period. L&I, Washington Fire Chiefs, and the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters will be equal shareholders of the collaborative with all the fire departments that commit to the FIIRE Pilot Program as participants.
We ask that local leaders reach out to their fire chiefs and health & safety officers and discuss this new pilot program in labor-management settings.
L&I will send out information providing guidelines on expectations to participate, what the premium discount entails and how to sign up. The program will be introduced and set up during May and June with a start date of July 1, 2021. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email WSCFF Health & Safety Committee Chair Keven Rojecki for more information.