Because of the speed at which they respond to emergencies, first responders and ambulance drivers face significantly higher risks of on-the-job injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average number of accidents involving ambulances accounted for more than 4,000 collisions each year.
As reported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one-third of ambulance accidents over 20 years resulted in serious injuries incurred by drivers, medical personnel and patients in transport. Included among the injured were pedestrians and other drivers.
When involved in a collision or crash, ambulances could eject emergency first responders and patients. It is not uncommon for emergency vehicles to lack adequate vehicle safety restraints.
While federal law requires passenger vehicles to contain safety restraints, ambulances do not fall under the same regulatory guidelines. Each local fire department or emergency medical services company has the authority to determine the quality of vehicles purchased and whether it should install additional restraints.
First responder injuries
Unless they receive specialized training in high-speed driving, ambulance drivers and EMS crews are at greater risk of sustaining serious or catastrophic injuries. Constantly lifting patients and other medical equipment may contribute to serious back injuries. Breathing in compressed gases or cleaning agents, along with slipping and falling, also occur regularly while on duty.
Drivers often serve a dual function as emergency medical technicians and may assist in unusual and dangerous circumstances. They may find themselves dispatched to locations where chemical or biological harm is imminent. Drivers can also face exposure to patients with highly contagious diseases. Because of the extreme pressure of responding to disasters, first responders may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which could make it difficult for them to carry out their duties.
Workers’ compensation claims to recover
Health care and emergency response employees who experience work-related injuries and illnesses may apply for workers’ compensation benefits whether affected physically or emotionally. Approved benefits may cover an injured employee’s medical expenses, rehabilitation, physical therapy and lost wages from taking time off from work.