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Musculoskeletal injury risks for ambulance workers

02 June 2015
Volume 7 · Issue 6


The provision of emergency and urgent care has been recognised for many years as exposing ambulance workers to high risks of muskuloskeletal injuries. Sue Hignett explores the common manual handling risks faced by paramedics and considers the role of human factors/ergonomics in occupational health and patient safety.

The provision of emergency and urgent care has been recognised for many years as exposing ambulance workers to high risks of musculoskeletal injuries (Turnbull et al, 1992; Rodgers, 1998; Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 2000; Lavender et al, 2000; Maguire et al, 2005). Although the tasks and job roles may vary in different countries (e.g. combination of paramedic and fire fighter roles), the evidence seems to be compelling that ‘ambulance workers [are] at a relatively higher risk of permanent medical impairment and early retirement on medical grounds than other occupational groups’ and have more ‘somatic health problems’ (e.g. musculoskeletal disorders) than the general population (Sterud et al, 2006). Recent research indicates that the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort and injuries may not have significantly reduced since the 1990s, with over 50% of paramedics continuing to have musculoskeletal pain or discomfort on a regular basis (Arial et al, 2014); it seems reasonable to suggest that these problems may still be contributing to early retirement on medical grounds (Rodgers, 1998).

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