EMS workers face higher occupational injury rates, NIOSH says

Washington – Emergency medical services workers have higher rates of work-related injuries than the general workforce and three times the lost workday rate of all private-industry workers, according to a new fact sheet from NIOSH.

Using data gathered from a four-year study of EMS workers, the fact sheet states that more than 22,000 EMS workers are treated in emergency rooms for work-related injuries each year. Other findings:

  • Full-time workers with less than 10 years of experience were injured most often.
  • Injuries occurred most frequently while responding to 911 calls (including patient care and transport), and the primary ailments were sprains and strains to the neck and back.
  • Actions that caused the most injuries were body motion – excessive physical effort, awkward posture or repetitive movement – and exposure to harmful substances (6,000 workers per year apiece), followed by slips, trips and falls (4,000); motor vehicle-related incidents (2,000); and violence/assaults (2,000).

To prevent workplace injuries and exposures, NIOSH recommends employers:

  • Foster an environment of protection with policies and procedures supporting healthy eating, exercise and plenty of rest.
  • Provide access to mental health services.
  • Train workers on safe patient-handling procedures.
  • Follow OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (1910.1030) and provide proper personal protective equipment.
  • Promote the use of proper footwear to prevent slips, trips and falls.
  • Improve motor vehicle safety with an emphasis on the use of restraints for workers and patients, vehicle safety checks, and emergency vehicle operating training.
  • Provide risk management, de-escalation and self-defense training.