Maine’s Emergency Medical Responders & Overexertion Injuries

Our emergency medical responders are the people we count on when seconds matter and fast, proper care can mean the difference between life and death.
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But according to a new report by the Maine Department of Labor’s Labor Standards division, these workers, who include EMTs, paramedics and firefighters, are especially vulnerable to injuries. On the job, these employees are at high risk for overexertion injuries resulting from lifting, transporting or otherwise assisting ill or injured persons.

Those type of injuries accounted for more than third of all injuries suffered by emergency medical crews, with strain injuries accounting for some 94 percent of all overexertion injuries. Most often, it was the employees’ back that was affected, accounting for about 45 percent of all cases.

Often, these injuries will result in an employee’s inability to continue working, at least temporarily, qualifying them for a workers’ compensation benefits. However, it’s vitally important that anyone who suffers an injury on the job reports it right away. A supervisor must be notified immediately and individuals have 30 days from the time of injury in which to file a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

According to the new report, there were 134 injuries suffered by emergency medical responders in Maine last year. Of those, 47 had involved some type of overexertion and 34 were as a result of lifting an ill or injured person. The other injuries suffered involved a wide range of events, which included slips, falls, trips, exposure to smoke or chemical fumes, heat exhaustion, being struck by materials, motor vehicle crashes and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Still, no other single type of injury was more pervasive among these professionals than those suffered as a result of lifting. In these cases, second to back and lower-back injuries, individuals suffered shoulder injuries, followed by injury to one or more knees. Several emergency responders suffered multiple injuries as a result of lifting an ill or injured person.

Overall, the rate at which these workers suffer injury is higher than the rate of the average worker, according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which analyzed occupational injury reports between 1998 to 2002.

As a result of this information, the SafetyWorks! division of the Maine Department of Labor has issued a recommendation of the following employer initiatives:

  • A health and wellness program that will promote regular exercise and stretch breaks for emergency medical employees throughout each work day;
  • A job rotation schedule, alongside internal procedures to monitor early symptoms of strains and sprains;
  • Where possible, the use of powered stretcher lifts to help lift patients;
  • Requirements for additional staff lifting resources in cases where patient lifts may be considered high-risk.

Further, the U. . Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends workers do not wait to get help if they believe they have suffered an injury. Not only will this help prevent workers from exacerbating the injury and requiring a more prolonged work absence, but it can help acquire proof that an incident on the job caused or contributed to the injury.

If you are interested in filing a workers’ compensation claim in Portland or Bangor, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

Additional Resources:
Injuries Incurred by Maine’s EMTs, EMT/Firefighters and Paramedics Due to Lifting,Transporting or Assisting Injured or Ill Persons, October 2013, Maine Department of Labor, Labor Standards

More Blog Entries:
Maine Work Accidents Claim 20 Lives in 2012, Oct. 16, 2013, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog