Imagine this: You’re investigating an incident that caused three worker injuries, one of them serious enough to require hospitalization. What are the potential root causes? Lack of safety training? Equipment failure? Sneezing?
On Sept. 7, a Springfield, MO, fire engine rolled over, injuring three firefighters on board. They were trapped inside the vehicle for three hours before they could be rescued.
Two crew members who were on the engine are already back at work. Driver, Paul McGuire, is still hospitalized in fair condition in the intensive care unit.
His two co-workers say McGuire had a sneezing fit that lasted several seconds. They tried to warn McGuire that the truck was swerving, but he wasn’t able to respond.
The Springfield Fire Department said McGuire was an 18-year veteran of the department and had a clean safety record.
Can sneezing really be that dangerous? Well, yes, according to medical experts.
You can’t sneeze with your eyes open, so that’s one hazard.
Sneezing can be so vigorous that people have injured muscles and fractured ribs. Such injuries have been the subject of workers’ comp cases.
And a very rare but real occurrence is something called syncope, which is loss of consciousness due to lack of blood flow to the brain.
Sneezing, along with coughing and laughter, can cause syncope. So if sneezing is severe enough, it can make you pass out, which may explain why McGuire wasn’t able to respond after his sneezing fit.
This crash has expensive consequences. Replacement of the engine and the equipment on board could cost $500,000. The department had expected it would have to replace the engine in about two years. Now it will have to raise those costs faster.
An independent fire apparatus mechanic evaluated the engine for possible mechanical issues, but couldn’t find any. The investigation continues.