Study finds EMS is risky occupation

November 26, 2002

Little has been known about the occupational risks for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, but a new study in the December 2002 Annals of Emergency Medicine, finds it is a far more hazardous profession than previously believed. Only four previous studies have evaluated EMS injuries, but most provided limited data. (Occupational Fatalities in Emergency Medical Services: A Hidden Crisis, p. 625) In the most comprehensive study to date, the EMS occupational fatality rate from 1992 to 1997 was estimated at 12.7 fatalities per 100,000 EMS workers, more than twice the national average for workers and comparable with rates for police (14.2) and firefighters (16.5) during the same period. Ambulance crashes appear to be the most likely cause of death for EMS workers.

The study's authors examined three independent databases, including the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and the National Emergency Medical Services Memorial Service (NEMSMS), to help develop the most comprehensive picture to date of the occupational hazards for EMS workers. According to the study, EMS personnel, which include emergency medical technicians and paramedics, are exposed to a wide variety of occupational hazards, including ambulance crashes, assaults, infectious disease, hearing loss, lower back injury, hazardous materials exposure, stress, extended work hours, and exposure to temperature extremes.

American College of Emergency Physicians

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