How to Avoid and Prevent Injury as an Ambulance Driver or EMT

10 safety principles that should be second nature for those working in medical transportation.

(updated on 4/6/2017)

Whether by van, sedan, or ambulance --- safety in medical transportation is critical. No one wants to get hurt on the job, be out of work, and lose weeks of pay due to a back injury.

We don't need to tell you how complicated things can get when you're injured, can't work, and you have kids at home. It causes major disruptions for families and organizations.

No bueno!

That's why taking effective safety measures in the medical transportation injury is vital to your health, well-being and long term success as an ambulance driver or EMT.

Not to mention the health of your patients and the health of your organization.

Without further ado here are 10 safety mantras that you can start using today:

1. Silence is Golden

The old saying Silence is Golden is most often used in the movie theatre, but we're talking about practicing safe driving to keep the Driver Behavior Devices installed in each of our vehicles quiet.

The device encourages employees to change their driving habits for the safest ride to and from nursing homes or other facilities. Tones sound whenever you accelerate rapidly, take a corner too quickly, or push too heavily on the brake.

The more severe the event, the more the tones sound. We encourage all drivers to "Tone it Down" so ideally, they don't experience any tones with or without a patient on board.

So basically, silence is golden when you don't hear the driver devices. Keep it quiet and you'll know you're driving safely and taking care of company equipment.


2. Caught You Being Safe

Are you following the safety guidelines?

Did Grandma make it safely to her appointment?

When you take safety seriously we commend you for a job well done. We've developed a program using in-vehicle video recording devices to be proactive about our patient safety. Safe transportation begins with you. Video cameras help us identify stories of success and areas of improvement. Safety is a top concern for you and the organization.


3. Use the Three Second Rule

Maintain a safe following distance.

How the 3-second rule works

The 3-second rule is a simple way to double-check that you're driving at a safe following distance. Choose a fixed point, for example, a road sign or a building that is between you and the car in front of you. If you reach that same fixed point before you can count to three, then you are driving too close to the car in front of you and you need to fall back and creat more space between cars.


4. Every Patient, Every Time

The number one cause of injury on the job is back related. You're constantly lifting patients to and from the stretcher, and when you don't lift correctly, you're more susceptible to injury. We highly recommend using a slide mat every time. No one can afford to be out of work for weeks due to a back injury. Stay safe and use a slide mat to prevent this from happening to you.

5. Don't Text and Drive

Texting and driving is extremely dangerous. On Time employees are forbidden to use a cell phone while driving. Best practice is to pull over if you need to communicate with a dispatcher via radio or other emergency personnel.


6. The 3 T's of Lifting

Proper lifting technique is vital for longevity in the medical transportation field. We've all been told to "lift with our legs" to save our backs when lifting heavy objects. Our three T's of lifting mantra goes one step further to remind everyone that Teamwork, Timing, and Technique are all vital parts of lifting while in the field. Along with effective communication, this keeps the patient and the employees as safe as possible during lifts.


7. 3 Points of Contact

Keeping three points of contact (two arms, one foot; two feet, one arm) when entering or exiting a vehicle drastically cuts the risk of injury. You could easily slip due to weather conditions or dirt which could cause serious sprains to ankles, knees or your back. As demonstrated below, it's also best to face the inside of the vehicle when entering or exiting to maintain your center of gravity.


8. Be a Fit Responder

We encourage our employees to warm up before transporting, not only in the morning, but throughout the day If you and your partner have been stagnant for an extended period, make sure you give your arms and legs a quick stretch to prevent injury.

Remember: Safety starts with you! You have to take care of yourself first before you can help someone else.

9. Spotting Doesn't Just Save Bumpers

Medical transport vehicles, like personal cars, trucks, and SUVs, have blind spots that can't be avoided. We always encourage the use of a spotter to assist our drivers in backing up. If there is no spotter available, we teach our drivers to complete a "circle of safety," which involves taking a walk completely around the vehicle to identify any potential hazards before reversing.


10. How Low Can You Go?

When a stretcher is loaded with a patient on board, it becomes top heavy no matter the patient's size. A minor bump into a curb, pothole, or even a small rock could pose a potential risk for a stretcher to tip over.

By lowering the stretcher closer to the ground, you decrease the risk significantly. Of course, we don't want our EMTs to strain their backs, so we encourage keeping the stretcher as low as possible without having you bend over too far.

Now it's your turn.

Do you have another mantra we can introduce to On Time employees? Let us know in the comments.


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