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More hours may mean more risks for EMS workers

EMS workers in Oklahoma and throughout the country who work long shifts might be more likely to be injured or become ill at work. A study that was recently published in a peer-review journal found a link between longer shifts and increased injuries and illnesses among workers in emergency services. Furthermore, the risk appears to increase along with the length of the shift.

Researchers examined three years of schedules for 4,000 workers along with occupational health records for emergency medical services agencies. The demands of EMS work mean that in some cases, workers might put in a full 24 hours under stressful circumstances in which they must make quick decisions. At a shift of that length, workers were twice as likely to become ill or injured compared to workers in eight-hour shifts. Overall, EMS workers who work shifts longer than 12 hours have a 60 percent higher chance of injury compared to those working shifts of fewer than 12 hours.

Researchers say that the preliminary study only suggests but does not prove a connection between long shifts and illness or injury. They say further testing using a randomized design is necessary.

EMS employees who are injured on the job may miss a significant amount of work. In some cases, they might even have permanent disabilities following an accident in the workplace. Workers may not realize that they might be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. In general, workers' compensation is available regardless of whose fault the accident is. Many injured workers obtain the assistance of an attorney during the process of applying for benefits or at a subsequent appeals hearing if the claim has been denied or disputed.

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