Background: Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel treat 22 million patients a year in the United States, yet little is known of their injury risks.
Objectives: To describe the epidemiology of occupational injuries among EMS personnel, calculate injury rates, and compare the findings with those for other occupational groups.
Methods: This was a retrospective review of injury records kept by two urban agencies. The agencies submitted all 617 case reports for three periods between January 1, 1998, and July 15, 2002. The agency personnel worked an estimated 2,829,906 hours during the study periods. Cases were coded according to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) criteria.
Results: Four hundred eighty-nine cases met the DOL inclusion criteria. The overall injury rate was 34.6 per 100 full-time (FT) workers per year (95% confidence interval [CI] 31.5-37.6). "Sprains, strains, and tears" was the leading category of injury; the back was the body part most often injured. Of the 489 cases, 277 (57%) resulted in lost workdays, resulting in a rate of 19.6 (95% CI 17.3-21.9) per 100 FT workers; in comparison, the relative risks for EMS workers were 1.5 (95% CI 1.35-1.72) compared with firefighters, 5.8 (95% CI 5.12-6.49) compared with health services personnel, and 7.0 (95% CI 6.22-7.87) compared with the national average.
Conclusions: The injury rates for EMS workers are higher than rates reported by DOL for any industry in 2000. Funding and additional research are critical to further defining the high risks to EMS workers and developing interventions to mitigate this serious problem.