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Guidelines seek to improve EMS worker safety

Pennsylvania paramedics have a tough job to do. Often taking on 24-hour shifts, many suffer from poor sleep quality and both mental and physical fatigue. This can affect their capabilities as ambulance drivers and their decision-making aptitude when caring for patients.

According to research, more than half of EMS workers claim that they do not recover entirely from their fatigue between shifts, and half of them sleep less than six hours a day. For these reasons, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the National Association of State EMS Officials have joined together to create guidelines reducing fatigue among EMS workers.

To prepare for this, researchers analyzed over 38,000 pieces of literature showing the prevalence of fatigue among EMS workers and its effects. They presented the evidence to a panel of experts, and the panel generated several important recommendations for fatigue risk management.

Workers must first be educated on the risks and thoroughly trained on how to identify them. Facilities should take surveys of its EMS workers to track the level of fatigue and sleepiness that they experience. They are also encouraged to make on-duty nap times and caffeine readily available for workers. Shifts should be less than 24 hours.

Even when these tips are followed, EMS workers may still be involved in an accident or otherwise injured on the job. In such an event, they will likely be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits even if the incident was due in part to their negligence. They might find it advisable to have the help of an attorney when preparing and submitting their claim.

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