When responding to emergency medical calls, EMS workers are more likely than firefighters to be assaulted by patients, family members or even bystanders, according to studies undertaken by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is estimated that 2,600 EMS workers received hospital treatment in 2014 for injuries resulting from work-related violence, and gender is not the determining factor of who gets assaulted.
Last year, researchers published an article that investigated injuries to paramedics and EMTs from patient-initiated violence. These EMS workers were employed by a large, urban fire department.
The researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that there was a general lack of knowledge and skill on how to prevent violent attacks on EMS workers. They suggest that free online training opportunities from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health course could help to address this issue.
They also recommend that signage in the back of ambulances, which states ‘It is a felony to assault a first responder’ may deter patients from assaulting EMS workers. Such signage is widely used in Canada and the UK. In addition to informing the public, it also shows fire department’s level of support for EMS workers.
The Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system should utilise a flag that dispatchers can use to alert EMS workers that a destination is the location of a previous patient-initiated violent injury. This is already in use in Dallas and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.