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PEW RESEARCH: Lax Ambulance Rules Put Paramedics, Patients at Risk

Posted by Scott Millen on Mar 17, 2017 3:08:37 PM

As an EMS professional, you know the danger that comes with emergency, prehospital care and transport. Over the past several years, the crashworthiness of an ambulance has been part of an ongoing industry conversation that is focused on safety and SAE Compliance.  

A Pew Research study has opened the back of the ambulance, revealing a startling number of paramedics and EMTs "often don’t properly secure patients — or themselves. Only a third of ambulance patients in serious crashes were secured with both shoulder and lap restraints, and 44 percent were ejected from their cots, according to the 20-year NHTSA study."

In an article posted on Pew Research's STATELINE, Dia Gainor, executive director of the National Association of State EMS Officials, called on state and local goverments to police the issue, making patient restraint mandatory, requiring patients "be fully strapped in. 

Pew Researchers cited studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing a large majority (84%) of EMS workers were not restrained during a crash.

Cory Richter, a regional director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technician and a battalion chief for Indian River County Fire Rescue in Florida was asked about the high number of EMS workers forgoing safety policies, “It’s very difficult for medics to work if they’ve got a patient to treat and they’re required to be tied to a chair, so a lot of them don’t use the restraint.”

Workplace Safety

The Pew Research study identified challenges to the current workspace significantly hindered EMS workers from being restrained.

"A 5- to 8-ton ambulance filled with heavy equipment can become a deathtrap in a crash. Cots typically are not bolted to the floor. Electrocardiogram monitors, which can weigh 20 to 25 pounds, usually are not tied down, and medical equipment is often stored on countertops or in cabinets that can fly open," a realization that seems incomprehendable in 2017. 

James Green, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health engineer, challenged manufacturers to look at designing products focused on the crew's movements during transport.

"Green’s agency used the crash test results to develop, with the help of manufacturers, new test methods to evaluate how ambulances are designed and built. It encourages the use of bucket seats that slide backward and forward instead of benches, secure cots bolted to the floor that prevent patients from sliding in a crash, and attaching monitors and equipment to the wall."

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See ambulance crash data report 

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Topics: inTraxx, SAE Compliance

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