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Will New OSHA Regulations Help First Responders Avoid NY Workplace Injuries?

First responders include emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and paramedics, among others. These workers provide life-saving medical assistance throughout New York and often go into dangerous situations to provide that help.

First responders face significant risks of injury in a wide variety of different situations they encounter as they do their jobs. Now, Business Insurance reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is considering setting new standards for their safety to try to reduce at least some of the work injury dangers these workers face. The question is, however, whether OSHA will go far enough and address some of the specific needs that are faced by employees within this field.

Will New OSHA Regulations Prevent NY Work Injuries Among First Responders?

OSHA has asked National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health for assistance in developing new proposed standards for first responders. Some of the suggestions which have been made and which are under consideration include:

  • Requiring both baseline and annual medical exams, including physical exams, lab tests, and a medical history. The goal is to identify health issues which adversely affect job performance. In 2014, 56 percent of the firefighters who died on duty in the United States suffered sudden cardiac arrest which caused death.
  • Requiring the use of stairs or slides and prohibiting the installation of new fire poles. This provision is controversial but is aimed at preventing serious injuries or death which can occur when fire poles are used. One firefighter in 2012, for example, sustained a leg fracture when his legs were in the wrong position as he landed at the base of a fire pole.

While these regulations could have a positive impact on preventing some of the risks faced by first responders, more needs to be done to improve safety conditions. In particular, OSHA needs to think about ways to make the risk of violence less of a problem for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and for paramedics.

Safety BLR recently published a comprehensive report on research from Drexel University showing EMTs and paramedics face a significant risk of injury due to on-the-job violence. EMTs and paramedics were found to be 14 times as likely as firefighters to be assaulted or otherwise injured by violence on-the-job.

Unfortunately, many EMTs simply consider being victimized by violence to be a routine part of their work, so many injuries go unreported and the true risk is likely known. EMT workers face such a high risk of violence in part because dispatchers often provide insufficient information to let them know what kind of situation they will be going into.

Even worse, EMT workers receive little to no training about how to handle combative and violent situations, so there's little they can do to protect themselves even if warned. OSHA may wish to consider addressing this problem as it looks towards regulations to try to reduce workplace injuries among first responders.