Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is just one of the serious job-related hazards faced by public safety workers. Anger, fear, flashbacks and the general inability to function in routine situations are among the potentially lingering effects.
Recently, Minnesotans have become aware how PTSD has affected hundreds of statewide police officers who have left their departments in the past two years, leading to numerous workers’ compensation settlements worth millions. Minneapolis alone has seen the departure of roughly 130 police officers, citing PTSD. That number may even reach 200.
Traumatic incidents at root
Many of these Minneapolis police officers suffering from PTSD have decades of experience in which they have encountered numerous traumatic incidents, including car crashes, shootings, child abuse, sexual assault and suicides. Such a work environment can only wear down a person’s mental health.
Along with PTSD, Here are some physical health hazards faced by public safety workers, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and prison guards:
- Musculoskeletal injuries: The physical strain on the bodies of public safety workers can cause injuries to the back, head, neck and shoulders. Other situations that lead to injuries include physical altercations with patients and criminal suspects, lifting people, falls from heights and trauma from a motor vehicle crash.
- Infection and disease: The COVID-19 virus has led to many public safety workers coming down with the infection in the past two years. However, infection and disease have been a longtime hazard. Exposure to bloodborne pathogens from blood, saliva and bodily fluids may lead to HIV and hepatitis.
- Heart ailments and respiratory difficulties: Extreme physical exertion may bring stress to the heart. U.S. police officers face a 30 to 70 times greater risk of sudden cardiac death when working in high-stress situations such as suspect chases, altercations and restraints. In battling blazes, firefighters may inhale chemicals and smoke that damage the lungs.
These work-related hazards faced by public safety workers can make anyone shudder.
Law enforcement officers are among the thousands of public safety workers in Minnesota. Since 2013, PTSD has been an illness eligible for workers’ compensation. Encouraging treatment is important, and, in time, they may be able to return to work.