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Prehosp Emerg Care. 2017 Jul-Aug;21(4):420-431. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2016.1274350. Epub 2017 Jan 25.

Occupational Injuries and Exposures among Emergency Medical Services Workers.



Emergency medical services (EMS) workers incur occupational injuries at a higher rate than the general worker population. This study describes the circumstances of occupational injuries and exposures among EMS workers to guide injury prevention efforts.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health collaborated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct a follow-back survey of injured EMS workers identified from a national sample of hospital emergency departments (EDs) from July 2010 through June 2014. The interviews captured demographic, employment, and injury event characteristics. The telephone interview data were weighted and are presented in the results as national estimates and rates.


Telephone interviews were completed by 572 EMS workers treated in EDs, resulting in a 74% cooperation rate among all EMS workers who were identified and successfully contacted. Study respondents represented 89,100 (95% CI 54,400-123,800) EMS workers who sought treatment in EDs over the four-year period. Two-thirds were male (59,900, 95% CI 35,200-84,600) and 42% were 18-29 years old (37,300, 95% CI 19,700-54,700). Three-quarters of the workers were full-time (66,800, 95% CI 39,800-93,800) and an additional 10% were part-time or on-call (9,300, 95% 4,900-13,700). Among career EMS workers, the injury rate was 8.6 per 100 full-time equivalent EMS workers (95% CI 5.3-11.8). Over half of all injured workers had less than ten years of work experience. Sprains and strains accounted for over 40% of all injuries (37,000, 95% CI 22,000-52,000). Body motion injuries were the leading event (24,900, 95% CI 14,900-35,000), with 90% (20,500, 95% CI 12,800-32,100) attributed to lifting, carrying, or transferring a patient and/or equipment. Exposures to harmful substances were the second leading event (24,400, 95% CI 11,700-37,100).


New and enhanced efforts to prevent EMS worker injuries are needed, especially those aimed at preventing body motion injuries and exposures to harmful substances. EMS and public safety agencies should consider adopting and evaluating injury prevention measures to improve occupational safety and promote the health, performance, and retention of the EMS workforce.


emergency medical technicians; occupational exposure; occupational injuries; surveillance; surveys

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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