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Injuries, illnesses: In the EMS field, danger is part of the job

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Emergency medical service providers on average experience more work-related injuries or illnesses than workers in related fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Approximately 450 out of 10,000 full-time emergency medical service providers, or 4.5 percent, experienced a nonfatal occupational injury or illness last year, according to the bureau. The most common was injury to the back.

The incidence rate was 3.2 percent for law enforcement workers, 1.2 percent for registered nurses and 1.1 percent for firefighters.

EMS personnel are required to do a lot of kneeling, bending and lifting while caring for patients and might be exposed to infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and AIDS. EMTs also can come into contact with mentally unstable or combative patients, an interaction that could result in injury.

“In big cities, there are (EMS personnel) wearing bulletproof vests. It hasn’t come to that yet here. But is the potential there? Yes,” said James F. Deavers, a paramedic for Guilfoyle Ambulance Services in Watertown.

In 2009 in Jefferson County, volunteer EMS provider Mark B. Davis was shot and killed while responding to a report of a man having difficulty breathing. Mr. Davis was serving with the Cape Vincent Volunteer Fire Department at the time and also was a part-time Guilfoyle employee.

The event shocked the local emergency medical services community. A line of some 180 emergency vehicles led a procession to the Cape Vincent Fire Hall after Mr. Davis’ funeral.

Despite the risks, though, employment of emergency medical service providers is expected to grow by 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Emergencies such as car crashes, natural disasters and violence will continue to create demand for EMTs and paramedics,” asserts the bureau’s job outlook for the field.

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