By Tom Armstrong. Edited for online by Joseph Cooney.
New research has found paramedics are seven times more likely to be injured on the job than the average Australian worker, with many undergoing violent attacks.
A report published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found that between 2000 and 2010, no other occupation had a higher injury rate than paramedics.
The report found that more than 94 workers in every thousand received serious injuries, compared to the national average of just 13.
This injury rate is more than two times higher than the rate for police officers.
Co-author of the report, Professor Brian Maguire from Central Queensland University, says the main reported injuries came from lifting on the job.
“Paramedics not only lift a lot of very heavy materials and heavy people, but they also deal with circumstances such as overturned vehicles and slippery surfaces,” Prof Maguire said.
Violence is also a factor, with 10 Australian paramedics seriously injured each year as the result of an assault.
“We saw that in one state alone there were over a hundred attacks against paramedics in one year,” Prof Maguire said.
“One study that was done found that 88 per cent of Australian paramedics surveyed said they were victims of violent attacks.”
Craig Crawford from United Voice says the results are not surprising, but they are concerning.
“It’s alarming for us to see that the stats have come out so high,” Mr Crawford said.
“We always knew that paramedics, or the work that paramedics do, would certainly be up there, but to see stats that high is very concerning.”
He says although safety standards are improving, the danger remains.
“Good changes are happening with health and safety standards regarding our vehicles, equipment and training,” Mr Crawford said.
“What’s not improving is certainly the assaults on paramedics.”
He says the rise in assault numbers may be linked to changing drug use in Australia.
“Certainly now in the last five to 10 years, drugs like ice being introduced to the market have certainly had a big impact on the way the public are behaving sometimes,” Mr Crawford said.
He says officers need be prepared to deal with dangerous situations.
“We are getting sent to jobs prior to police a lot more now, and sometimes at the same time as police,” Mr Crawford said.
So our staff really have to be on the ball now with regards to assaults.”