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Powered Stretchers Could Reduce Paramedics Injuries

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 04 May 2017
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Image: A new study shows powered stretchers could reduce injuries to paramedics (Photo courtesy of Applied Ergonomics).
Image: A new study shows powered stretchers could reduce injuries to paramedics (Photo courtesy of Applied Ergonomics).
Paramedics with access to stretchers with battery-powered hydraulic systems and assisted ambulance-loading experience significantly fewer musculoskeletal injuries, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo conducted a study to compare paramedic injury rates at Niagara Emergency Medical Service, which had implemented powered stretchers at the time of the study, with Hamilton Paramedic Services, which used manual stretchers. The study compared injury incidence rates, days lost, and compensation costs before and after implementation of powered stretcher and load systems in NEMS.

The results showed that prior to the intervention, stretcher related musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) incidence rates averaged 20 and 17.9 full time equivalent (FTE), in NEMS and HPS respectively. One-year post-intervention rates decreased to 4.3 FTE in NEMS, a 78% reduction. On the other hand, MSD rates modestly increased to 24.6 FTE in HPS during the same period. Cost-benefit analysis estimated that the added cost to purchase powered stretcher and load systems would be recovered within seven years. The study was published on February 27, 2017, in Applied Ergonomics.

“Each unit can cost approximately of CAD 40,000; although the units may seem expensive, they appear to offer a significant return on investment,” said lead author Daniel Armstrong, MSc, a graduate student in the University of Waterloo department of kinesiology. “We found that the added cost to purchase power stretchers and load systems would be recovered within their expected seven-year service life, due to the reduction in injury-related costs.”

“In many cases, paramedics face spine compression that is well above the threshold limit. A manual stretcher alone can weigh nearly 100 pounds. Add on a 200-pound patient and a paramedic team is handling 300 pounds every time they raise, lower, lift or load the stretcher,” said senior author assistant professor of kinesiology Steven Fischer, PhD. “We estimate that a paramedic is lifting more than 1,700 pounds per shift on average, approximately the same weight as moving all of the furniture in a one-bedroom apartment.”

Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement, performance, and function, and incorporates the sciences of biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, psychology and neuroscience. Kinesiologists work with people of all ages and physical abilities to treat and prevent injury and disease, and improve movement and performance. Field areas include health promotion, injury rehabilitation, pain and chronic disease management, ergonomics, fitness training, and public health.

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