Long shifts increase the risk of injury for EMS workers

Emergency medical services workers in Pennsylvania and around the country are more likely to develop a work-related illness or suffer a workplace injury when they work long shifts according to a recently-published study. Researchers found that the risk of injury or illness went up sharply as the number of hours worked by paramedics increased. The study was published on Sept. 14 in a peer-reviewed journal.

The researchers reviewed 950 health records provided by 14 prominent emergency medical services providers as well as the shifts performed by 4,000 EMT workers over a three year period. They found that the risk of a work injury or illness increased by 50 percent when the shifts worked by paramedics stretched beyond 12 hours. The researchers say that factors such as the way that the crew worked and the time of day that they were on duty were taken into consideration.

While the researchers conceded that more work needed to be done and their findings did not prove that long shifts resulted in injuries, they said that the trends identified by the research merited further investigation. They also point out that EMT workers often perform physically challenging work in highly stressful environments. The nature of the work can also lead to paramedics working shifts of up to 24 hours.

Pennsylvania workers who perform hazardous duties may suffer more frequent injuries when mental or physical fatigue sets in, and they may be entitled to compensation under the state's workers' compensation program. The program is designed to provide assistance to injured or sick workers as they recover, but the application process can be complex and employers sometimes contest these claims due to concerns about rising insurance costs. Attorneys with experience in this area may be able to assist those injured on the job as they apply for benefits, and they could also advocate on their behalf during subsequent hearings if claims are disputed or denied.

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