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Long hours increase injury risks for EMS workers

A new observational study demonstrates that emergency services workers are at a 60 percent higher risk of suffering illness or injury when they work extended hours than when they work for 12 hours or less. EMS employees in New Jersey may not realize that their risk of injury increases with longer shifts.

The researchers reviewed 1 million shift schedules of 4,000 EMS workers over a three-year period to investigate how the amount of continuous time workers are on the job correlates with injuries. They also analyzed 950 occupational health records from 14 large EMS agencies around the country.

EMS workers must be strong and capable of moving patients. Their minds must also be clear when they provide emergency medical attention under chaotic and stressful circumstances. Despite this, researchers say that the employees often work for up to 24 hours at a time, which could hinder the quality of the medical attention that they provide as well as increase their risk of illness or injury. They also found that the longer the workers' shifts were, the more likely they were to develop an illness or suffer an injury.

Even when the researchers took factors such as how often certain employees worked together and the time of day, they found that workers were 50 percent more likely to suffer an injury when working 12 hours or longer than working shorter shifts. Additionally, the risk for illness or injury more than doubles when their shifts last up to 24 hours compared to shifts of eight hours or less.

People who are injured on the job could receive medical, temporary disability or permanent disability benefits under their employer's workers' compensation covered. Those who believe that they are entitled to these benefits but have seen their claim denied may want to have the representation of an attorney at a subsequent appeals hearing.

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