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Why do first responders face a higher risk of work injuries?

On Behalf of | Sep 23, 2019 | Workplace Injuries

Anyone who suffers a severe injury depends on first responders, such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), to help them when they need it the most. 

However, it is often these very workers who face the highest risk of sustaining an injury on the job.

Emergency responders at high risk of injuries

This report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) might be recent, but the news is not. EMTs and other first responders consistently face high risks of suffering more injuries on the job.

The study found that around 8 or 9 out of 100 ambulance workers seek treatment for work injuries each year. That creates a significant gap between EMTs and most other jobs, where only about 2 out of 100 workers suffer serious work injuries annually.

Why do they face this increased risk?

It makes sense that first responders and law enforcement suffer the highest number of work injuries. After all, their work is rigorous, perilous and constantly changing. But there are specific risk factors that increase an ambulance worker’s chances of injury, including:

  1. Dangerous situations: More than any other job, first responders and EMTs are often in incredibly dangerous situations and environments. They receive extensive training to protect both themselves and others in these situations. However, it can still be challenging to mitigate risks when they are focusing on saving the lives of others. 
  2. These jobs have extreme physical demands: All first responders’ duties require a considerable amount of physical exertion. Lifting injured individuals onto gurneys can cause muscle strains and navigating areas of an accident can pose a risk of lacerations or slips and falls.
  3. Urgency can increase risk: EMTs and first responders must act fast. That is essential to complete their job and their service to others. However, moving quickly can increase the chance of an injury. For example, ambulances speeding down a Maryland highway often face a higher risk of a crash, especially when other drivers are not paying attention.
  4. Exposure to hazardous substances: Like all medical professionals, EMTs also deal with a daily risk of being exposed to hazardous chemicals from their patients or the scenes of an accident.

Of course, there are measures that these employees and their employers can take to prevent the chance of a life-changing injury or accident. And these employees can collect workers’ compensation for a work injury, regardless of how dangerous their work is (Maryland Code, Labor and Employment §9-507).

First responders understand the risks they face when they start their job. However, it is still critical that they are aware that these risks are on the rise so that they can protect themselves.

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