Effective emergency response can save a person’s life. However, time is everything when it comes to life threatening situations. Take too long and it could cost someone their life. Fortunately, there are thousands of people who are given a second chances thanks to the immediate medical care they receive from first responders. Emergency medical service (EMS) workers are responsible for providing immediate medical care designed to prolong a person’s life till they arrive at a hospital where doctors can help further.
This means that EMS workers are forced to enter unstable work environments that can present any combination of hazards and risks to their own lives.
Some of the potential hazards faced by EMS workers include:
- Exposure to infectious illness and viruses
- Constant lifting of patients and equipment
- Requirement of on-call duty, sometimes on graveyard shifts
- Handling of hazardous chemicals
- Regular transportation of patients and medical equipment
According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), EMS workers have higher rates of occupational injuries, surpassing the rate of the general workforce. As a matter of fact, lost-time injuries are three times higher with EMS workers than any other industry.
Based on the results of the study, over 22,000 EMS workers were treated for occupational injuries every year. More than half of all the injured workers have fewer than 10 years of work experience and about 40% of the injuries are sprains and strains.
The leading event accounting to 90% is body motion injuries, which includes carrying, lifting and transferring of patients and equipment. The second leading event is the exposure to harmful substances. Other causes of injuries are slips, trips or falls, motor vehicle accidents and violence or assaults.
Most injuries occur while responding to a 911 call. About 95% of EMS workers seek treatments in emergency departments within four years.
The study concludes several preventive ways recommended by NIOSH. EMS department and other public safety agencies must evaluate injury prevention measures and adopt more preventive ways to improve safety among EMS workers. There should be a safer handling technique for patients through the provision of safe handling equipment as well as reminding workers on the proper ways to lift.
To enhance safety in motor vehicle, NIOSH recommends training and complete evaluation of drivers including periodic motor vehicle records check. Occupant resistant must be checked in ambulances as well as the security in the patient’s compartment and driver’s cab.