Working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) is a dangerous job, requiring you to bravely put yourself in critical medical situations every day. It's no coincidence that EMTs suffer injuries more often than other occupations, according to the CDC. Over 22,000 emergency services personnel visit emergency rooms each year after getting hurt on the job. This number doesn't factor in workers who self-treat, see a non-ER doctor or suffer in private.
What is the best way to stay safe as an EMT? Prevent pain and distress by educating yourself on the typical injuries that you'll face while on duty. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Watch your back: When you spend your day transporting patients from their homes or accident scenes to ambulances, there's a lot of lifting and carrying involved. Make sure you're following proper lifting techniques - especially if your patient is overweight. Extreme physical effort can put a lot of strain on your back, neck and other parts of your body.
- Beware of bodily fluids: Exposure to harmful substances is another common reason for an ER visit. These incidents usually happen when you get stuck with a needle or come into contact with a patient's blood or saliva. Wear your proper protection and obey your employer's exposure control plan.
- Slips happen: About half of slip-and-fall accidents occur during patient handling. Watch your step when you're pushing, lifting and carrying. Make sure to wear slip-resistant footwear.
- Drive safely: Driving an ambulance can be hectic. Speeding can be part of the job because you are dealing with life or death situations. Inattentive drivers, pedestrians, animals and other road hazards can cause crashes. Even a sudden stop or a swerve can cause lasting injuries. Keep everyone buckled up and stay off the cellphone unless it's for official duties.
- Prepare to make peace: A big part of your job is putting yourself into harm's way. A belligerent or high patient can get violent. A frantic family member may not realize you are trying to help. Use your situational awareness and de-escalation techniques to try to prevent things from getting out of control, especially when alcohol or drugs are involved. Self-defense training may help as well.
If you're an EMT, injury risks are an unfortunate reality. You can do your part to prevent incidents by emphasizing proper training and encouraging a safe workplace culture. When you know what to look out for, you'll be more prepared to avoid injuries that can keep you out of work.