Paramedic Health and Safety

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Paramedics have the unenviable position of being constantly exposed to disease and bacteria. Our job occupation forces them into situations that present both a biological risk and physical risk such as explosions, falling debris and rubble or other compromising positions. In such a risk filled job, paramedics must follow many strict procedures and protocols in order to remain safe. This paper will attempt to analyze the problems that paramedics have to deal with on a daily basis in relation to their own personal health and safety. Through an examination of paramedic protocols in relation to national Department of Transportation policy and professional practices it is evident that many current policies address the issues of on the job duties for paramedics and how they can avoid health and safety risks through careful awareness and following safety protocols. An examination of health and safety issues must look at the three areas of paramedic safety that affects them the most, their health risks, physical risks, and psychological risks.

The health dangers imposed on paramedics are daunting when observed from the outsider’s perspective. They have constant exposure to contagious and infectious diseases from their patients or needles that may be haphazardly placed. Infectious diseases are especially dangerous for paramedics because they receive patients at the peak of the infection instead of through the treatment process, they are also the individuals who are least protected against the possibility of infection because they lack the time and proper equipment to ensure quarantine. Patient and paramedic interaction is an important indicator of exposure risks since many times paramedics must carry patients from emergency situations; as a result they have physical contact with their patients as opposed to nurses and doctors who only get exposure through secondary contact (Boyd 2003). Paramedics are also exposed to numerous chemicals that could cause burns or permanent damage through fumes and constant exposure. Chemicals used in medical procedures such as halothane, nitrous oxide and ethyl chloride are all extremely toxic and corrosive. Another risk is paramedic exposure to allergic reaction causing agents. The use of latex gloves have been known to cause severe allergic reactions. Experts note that, “Paramedics much more so than nurses have the possibility of being exposed to toxic material because of the stress related environment they occupy. The need to be attentive to detail when chaos is occurring around them is a crucial ability for trained paramedics” (Willis 1997). The risks imposed through exposure to dangerous chemicals have resulted in toxic burns and other toxin related injuries; as a result many hospital and national level protocol have been established to prevent these problems from occurring.

In order to prevent such accidents from occurring, the Occupational Health and Safety Act provide several guidelines for the prevention of health risks within the work environment. In order to prevent accidental exposure to contagious diseases especially through needle stick injuries requires the careful disposal of all contagious material used. By recapping and properly storing used needles from patients and by wearing protective equipment at all times such as gloves and facemasks, the risks of exposure are significantly reduced. Furthermore, the exposure to patients with contagious diseases can be greatly reduced through the use of basic protective measures such as full body coverings and facemasks (Boyd 2003). Maintaining a careful distance from any exposed wounds is also important; overall the necessity to maintain professional spacing between patients and paramedics is important for their overall safety. Exposure to chemicals are much more difficult to treat in the paramedic work environment, however, immediate treatment through washing exposed areas prevent permanent or long term damage. Moreover,...
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