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Addressing workplace fatigue for EMS workers

Emergency medical service workers in North Carolina may benefit from guidelines that have been created to lower their work-related fatigue. The guidelines were drafted by both the National Association of State EMS Officials and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Researchers evaluated over 38,000 works of literature to present before an expert panel as proof of the fatigue issue. The proof included recent research showing that over half of all EMS workers report that they suffer from extreme physical and mental exhaustion while working. The sleep they have is of insufficient quality, and they are unable to recover properly between work shifts. Half of EMS workers state that they sleep less than six hours every day.

With the evidence that was present, the panel of experts devised five suggestions for managing fatigue risk. They recommend that sleepiness and fatigue surveys should be used to assess fatigue. In addition, work shifts should be less than 24 hours. Caffeine should be readily available as well as opportunities for taking sleep breaks while on duty. The panel also recommended that workers be provided training and education on managing fatigue risk.

According to an assistant professor of emergency medicine, fatigue does not affect just one group of EMS clinicians or one type of EMS procedure. While EMS administrators are responsible for reducing safety risks and creating work shift schedules, they are not adequately prepared to address workplace fatigue. This is partly due to the fact they have no instructions regarding how to handle workplace fatigue.

Some employees who have been injured due to fatigue on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Legal counsel could help a worker through the claims process.

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