EMS Week – Caring for our Community SAFETY

*EMTs’ and paramedics’ mortality rates are three times the average worker.

*Transportation incidents are 30 times higher for EMTs and paramedics than the national average, with higher chance of fatalities. This is more than any other area of public safety.

*Non-fatal occupational injuries (lifting, slips, trips and falls) are six times that of the national rate for workers and almost two times that of the fire service

*The prevalence of violence against EMS providers is 22 times the national average.

EMS Safety is a phrase that is thrown around to often.  Most the time it is the forgotten or overlooked while trying to do what’s right for the patient.  We must always watch our back and watch our partners back.  The first thing you learn as a new EMS provider is BSI/scene safety, this is a Concept that we must never forget. Throughout the last year the EMS system has been put to the test due to a world wide pandemic, major riots, driver safety, and supply shortages.  And yet some how we have come through it all and continue to treat our patients.  According to Brian McGuire’s extensive research in the area of provider safety, we understand that a lot needs to be done to better protect our EMTs and paramedics:

The EMS system as a whole during the COVID pandemic was taxed and stressed to the max.  Every EMS provider needed to adapt and overcome many challenges.  First the providers needed to deal with very sick patients while needing to adapt to a new way of treatments.  The normal way of doing things is not the new normal.  The old way of BSI has changed.  The new normal consist of mask, gowns, gloves, goggles, hair nets, hand sanitizer.  To make matters worse at the beginning when we needed the supplies the most, they were unavailable.  Then came the riots.  All emergency services were under attack.  EMS and Fire departments needing to wear bullet proof vest.  While this is not new to some, it is to others.  Scene safety has never been more important.  To some this was just words they learned in class.  The bottom line is if the provider isn’t safe, the patient isn’t safe.

Over the last years, while some improvements have been made in areas such as technology, vehicle construction and other indications in the artifacts of our cultures (the things we wear and do) that safety is gaining in relevance and importance, we don’t know if we’ve really improved. Eye protection is more commonly seen hanging on the epaulettes of our uniforms or being worn during a call, but what about seatbelt use? A basic technology that has been shown to improve safety and is enforced for use by the public–are we using seatbelts in the back of the ambulance, or even consistently in the front?  More often then not you see or do not follow all rules of the road.  Emergency vehicles speeding to emergencies, lights and sirens asking other drivers for the right of way on the road.  Speeding, passing, passing through intersections.  But how safe are we?  Have we really been trained enough to make all these decisions?

In conclusion, while provider safety has become a hot topic, not much has changed.  At the end of the day every provider wants to be safe, treat their patients and then go home safe to their families.  Keep you head on a swivel, stage when needed, and if you feel unsafe then back out to a safe area and call for help.  Stay safe and happy EMS week.

Josh Stagner

Midstate REMSCO Safety Committee Chair

EMS Chief/Paramedic