What does a paramedic do?
A paramedic, ambulance attendant or emergency medical technician is a person who may be called to any number of settings in an emergency situation.
The main duties of a paramedic are to:
- Respond to emergency calls such as sudden illness, accidents (automobile, industrial, etc.), building collapses and natural disasters.
- Provide emergency medical care or care en route to other medical facilities.
- Use proper techniques for first aid, medical treatments, etc.
- Educate the public on health and safety issues.
What are some health and safety issues for paramedics?
- Exposure to contagious and infectious diseases from patients or needles.
- Working with the various chemicals used in medical procedures such as halothane, nitrous oxide and ethyl chloride.
- Exposure to other chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medicine.
- Potential allergic reaction to latex gloves.
- Physical tasks that involve awkward postures, repetition, force or overexertion.
- Exposure to extreme temperatures.
- Risk of injury from the various locations where paramedics may be called to. For example, fire, explosion, unstable structures and surfaces, falling objects, or working near traffic, water, large crowds, violent situations, etc.
- Slips, trips and falls often compounded by the fact that the paramedic is carrying a patient on a stretcher.
- Danger of driving at high speeds, often in difficult traffic or weather conditions.
- Shift work and extended work days.
- Periods of intense psychological stress or trauma.
- Dealing with hostile patients.
What are some preventive measures for a paramedic?
Experience and extensive safety and skills training are the best protection for a paramedic. Other preventive measures:
- Wash your hands frequently- an important step in reducing the risk of infection.
- Know the routine practices to prevent contracting blood borne pathogens.
- Learn safe lifting techniques.
- Be aware of your surroundings to avoid trips and falls.
- Avoid or take frequent breaks from work that involves awkward physical positions.
- Follow a recommended shift work pattern, and be aware of the hazards associated with shift work.
- Follow or establish safety procedures for working alone, or for avoiding working alone wherever possible.
- Learn about stress and post-traumatic stress, and consider a debriefing session or counselling after a critical or traumatic event.
- Exercise regularly to keep fit and reduce the risk of injury.
What are some good general safe work practices?
Ensure that you are trained and informed in how to avoid the various health and safety hazards of your job. Read about these:
- Chemical hazards and WHMIS.
- Blood borne diseases such as AIDS, or hepatitis.
- The importance of hand washing.
- Needlestick injuries.
- Proper selection, use, maintenance and storage of personal protective equipment.
- Safe lifting techniques.
- Preventing slips, trips and falls.
- Fall Protection.
- Shift work.
- Fire Safety.
- Working alone or working alone with patients.
- Working safely with compressed gases.
Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.