In Washington state, people typically look up to nurses, law enforcement, teachers and first responders because individuals in these professions usually care more about the needs of others than about their own. Paramedics, who face potential danger with every response to a call, also fall into that category.
As a paramedic, you will risk exposure to blood-borne pathogens and bodily fluids that could cause infectious diseases, and your diverse workplace environments will pose further dangers. Hazardous chemicals, psychological stresses and excessive noise levels that can damage your hearing are but some of the risks with which you must deal. If you do not take precautions to mitigate the hazards, the physical and psychological toll of your job could force you to miss work.
Hazards paramedics face
As you go about your daily duties, making critical decisions in split seconds -- with limited information -- will be par for the course. Anticipating the following risks might allow you to take precautions:
- Back injuries: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the constant kneeling, bending, stretching and lifting make back injuries the most frequently reported injuries in paramedics.
- Blood-borne pathogens: Assisting bleeding patients with unknown conditions in unpredictable circumstances will have you using sharps like surgical instruments and needles. Splashing bodily fluids and blood, along with the risks of needle-stick injuries, could expose you to HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne pathogens.
- Assaults: Even though you respond to save lives, you will often encounter the hostility of intoxicated or aggressive patients, bystanders, and even street gangs. Authorities say chances are high for you and your colleagues to suffer nonfatal injuries in violent acts or assaults.
- Psychological stresses: Making life-or-death decisions and dealing with traumatized victims multiple time per day can cause post-traumatic stress disorder that can result in depression, nightmares, severe anxiety and extreme psychological stress. Shift work can cause sleep disorders that will only serve to exacerbate the stress.
- Hearing loss: When you respond to emergencies, good hearing is crucial to distinguish different sounds, such as collapsing walls and cries for help. However, frequent exposure to the noises of alarms, air horns, sirens, engines and power tools while forcing entry and extricating injured victims could cause permanent loss of hearing.
Injuries and lost wages
Regardless of your calling to help others, workplace injuries can jeopardize your earnings and your ability to care for your family. Fortunately, the state-regulated workers' compensation system is there to ease the financial burden. A Washington attorney who has experience in helping injured paramedics to obtain maximum applicable benefits can be a valuable asset in the benefits claims process.