Paramedics continue to face life-threatening risks at work

22 March 2023
Paramedics are risking their lives each time they respond to a call for help.

That’s according to CQUniversity research which has found the risks paramedics face on a daily basis are considerable.

While the research was conducted in the United States (US), and looked at occupational fatalities among Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, lead author and CQUniversity Adjunct Professor Brian Maguire said the findings were relevant to paramedics in Australia.

“Paramedics respond to over four million calls for assistance every year in Australia,” Professor Maguire said.

“They are a critical component of the nation’s healthcare, public safety and public health systems.

“The findings reemphasise the risks that paramedics face and shows, just like our previous paper on risks for Australian paramedics, that transportation events are one of the circumstances that pose significant risks for paramedics,” he said.

“Although the number of fatalities is much larger in the US, that is because the paramedic workforce is so much larger than that in Australia.”

The recent research, titled A Cohort Study of Occupational Fatalities among Paramedicine Clinicians: 2003 through 2020, was published in Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

Professor Maguire said the findings showed a ‘critical element’ that was missing in both Australia and the US.

“In order to address ways to reduce the risks for paramedics, we need better systems to identify and track those risks,” he said.

“Neither Australia nor the US currently have the data systems needed to track country-wide injuries and fatalities in a way that can be used to best identify risks and quantify the results of interventions.”

An average of 206,000 paramedicine clinicians per year were employed in the United States during the study period.

Professor Maguire said that of the 204 total fatalities, 153 (75 per cent) were transportation-related incidents.

“Approximately 11 paramedicine clinicians are documented as dying every year – the highest risk is from transportation-related events,” Professor Maguire explained.

However, the methods used for tracking occupational fatalities means that many cases among paramedicine clinicians are not included.

“A better data system, and paramedicine clinician-specific research, are needed to inform the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions to prevent occupational fatalities,” he said.

“Research, and the resulting evidence-based interventions, are needed to meet what should be the ultimate goal of zero occupational fatalities for paramedicine clinicians in the United States, Australia and globally.”