Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (July 2017)
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is implementing New equipment this summer to make patient handling easier and reduce injuries among emergency medical services (EMS) workers.
In an announcement on the provincial government’s website on July 13, 2017 the health ministry reports that more than 350 of its ground ambulances will be equipped with mechanical lifts consisting of power stretchers and load systems.
Each stretcher can lift up to 317 kg via a battery-powered hydraulic system.
“Repetitive lifting is one of the leading causes of injuries to EMS practitioners,” says Darren Sandbeck, the EMS Chief paramedic for AHS. “The new power stretchers and lift system will reduce the frequency of frontline crews having to physically lift patients in and out of ambulances.”
The equipment, which will become standard for Alberta ground ambulances, cost $20 million. The price tag is reportedly a one-time investment coming out of the provinces existing budget. “Every employee deserves to work in the safest environment possible, and it is our job to ensure that happens,” says AHS president and chief executive officer, Dr. Verna Yiu.
“Alberta paramedics dedicate their work every day to saving lives,” associate Health Minister Brandy Payne says. She adds that installing this new lift technology will translate into a safer workplace for paramedics by protecting them from work -related physical strain.
AHS tested the power lifts in a 2015 pilot project, in which the equipment was installed in eight inter–facility transfer vehicles. Over the next 18 months, there were no lift-related injuries reported by employees assigned to the equipment. By contrast, there were 84 patient-handling injuries involving staff using all other vehicles during the same period.
The government expected to finish installing the equipment by spring 2018.
I hope that all provinces will take the hint and use the same type of lifts to protect their own EMS people. The reduced costs of healthcare for strains and sprains will more than off set the initial costs.
I, normally, do not have much to say about the degree, or lack thereof, of workplace protection for workers by the Alberta government. This time, I have to say, Well Done!
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Daniel L. Beal
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VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.