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Long shifts double injury, illness risk for EMS workers: study

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Pittsburgh – Emergency medical services workers whose shifts last longer than 12 hours have double the risk of an occupational injury or illness, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers examined data from nearly 1 million shifts of more than 4,000 EMS workers over a three-year period, as well as 950 occupational health records for 14 large EMS agencies. They found that injury risk rose as the work shift grew longer.

After accounting for worker type, day or night shift, and other factors, the researchers discovered that working a shift longer than 12 hours was tied to a 50 percent higher injury risk. The risk increased to 60 percent for EMS personnel working shifts of 16 to 24 hours.

EMS workers have to be able to lift and move patients, drive safely, and stay focused despite stress, yet they frequently work shifts of 12 hours or longer, the researchers noted.

The study was published online Sept. 14 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.