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Occupational injuries caused by fire and smoke in Victoria, Australia, 2003-2021: a descriptive study.

OBJECTIVES: Hospital attendance related to fire, flame or smoke exposure is commonly associated with work. The aim of this study was to examine time trends and risk factors for work-related fire/flame/smoke injuries in Victoria, Australia.

METHODS: This study was based on emergency department (ED) presentation records from the Victorian Emergency Minimum Dataset, 2003-2021. Cases were people aged 15-74 years with injury-related ED presentations, if cause of injury was recorded as fire/flame/smoke, based on coded data and/or narratives. Work-related rates were calculated per employed persons; non-work rates were calculated per population. Work-related and non-work-related cases were compared using logistic regression modelling.

RESULTS: There were 11 838 ED presentations related to fire/flame/smoke: 1864 (15.7%) were work-related. Non-work-related rates were 12.3 ED presentations per 100 000 population , and work-related rates were 3.43 per 100 000 employed persons annually. Over the study period, work-related rates decreased annually by 2.0% (p<0.0001), while non-work rates increased by 1.1% (p<0.0001). Work-related cases (vs non-work) were associated with summer (vs winter), but the association with extreme bushfire periods (Victorian 'Black Saturday' and 'Black Summer') was not statistically significant. Work-related cases were less severe than non-work-related cases, evidenced by triage status and subsequent admission.

CONCLUSIONS: Rates of occupational fire/flame/smoke-related injury presentations decreased over the past two decades in Victoria, while non-work-related rates increased. This could reflect improved safety in the workplace. Hospital data, however, cannot be used to distinguish occupation or industry therefore, employment data linkage studies are recommended to further inform workplace preventive measures.

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