The International Impact of Violence against EMS Providers

Prof. Brian J. Maguire from the school of Medical and Applied Sciences at Central Queensland University in Australia presented never-before-seen results from a recent survey on violence against EMS personnel around the world in a session delivered at the National EMS Safety Summit. The survey represents 1,400 responders from seven countries (www.vaprp.org). While many challenges are presented in curbing the risk of violence against paramedics and EMTs, the data supports efforts to do so:

  • The national average for non-fatal occupational injury rates per 100 full-time workers per year is 5.8. The EMS industry average is 34.6.
  • The national average for fatalities per 100,000 workers is 5. The EMS industry average is 12.7.
  • Problems and complaints reported by respondents in response to stressful experiences include symptoms of PTSD and depression, including being extra watchful and on guard, avoiding talking about an event or feelings, and repeatedly having disturbing memories or thoughts.
  • Of violent incidents reported, being punched or slapped was the most common, and the most commonly reported injuries were bruises, contusions, abrasions and scratches.

Maguire also discussed policies that have been implemented in an effort to reduce the risks faced by EMTs and paramedics on duty:

  • Legislation (e.g., increasing criminal penalties for assault)
  • Issuing of ballistics vests (which, by the way, can protect responders from injury if they are involved in an ambulance accident, particularly in the patient compartment). Maguire noted that there can be unexpected consequences from wearing vests in high heat and during strenuous activities like CPR.
  • Self-defense/attack avoidance and escape training.

Key Recommendations

  1. Attend a self-defense class at least once per year;
  2. Maintain physical fitness;
  3. Have a safety plan with your partner and repeat it every day;
  4. Be aware of surroundings;
  5. Always be prepared to drop everything and escape;
  6. Report all incidents (and, if possible, all near-misses as well);
  7. Follow workplace policies and procedures;
  8. Participate in prevention programs; and
  9. Participate in research