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Title: Prevalence and risk factors of occupational injuries among emergency care providers
Authors: Chule, Ntuthuko Gift 
Keywords: Prevalence;Risk factors;Occupational injuries;Emergency care providers
Issue Date: 30-Nov-2020
Introduction: Occupational injuries and diseases affect approximately 260 million
people worldwide and kill nearly 2.3 million people per year. While paramedics and
other healthcare workers (HCWs) are responsible for ensuring the health of others,
their working environment is also considered to be one of the most hazardous
Purpose: To describe the prevalence and risk factors associated with occupational
injuries, as well as perceptions of both the mitigation and prevention of occupational
injuries among paramedics working for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Emergency Medical
Rescue Services (EMRS).
Methodology: The study adopted a quantitative, descriptive, cross-sectional
approach. The study population comprised operational paramedics working for the
KZN EMRS with a sample of 334 paramedics being drawn from a total of 2378 KZN
EMRS paramedics. The study was conducted in five of the eleven districts in KZN.
The data collection methods used included a closed ended questionnaire and a
document review. The data which had been collected was analysed using Stata
version 15. The Pearson chi-squared test was used to test for associations between
any two categorical variables and, in instances, where Pearson chi-squared test was
invalid Fisher’s exact test was used. A p-value of less than 0.05 was considered to be
statistically significant.
Results: Two of the five districts provided the required information for reviewing the
records. A total of 36 injuries were reported in the two districts between 2011 and
2018. The reported injuries included injuries from motor vehicle accidents (61%),
musculoskeletal injuries (16.7%), needle-stick injuries (13.9%), accidental surgical
blade cuts (5.6%) and assault injuries (2.8%). A total of 152 survey questionnaires
were completed and returned – a 45% response rate. The findings from the selfadministered questionnaire revealed 25 (16.5%) unreported injuries which included
musculoskeletal injuries (48%, n = 12), needle-stick injuries (48%, n = 12), and one
(1) (4%) assault-related injuries. A further 49 (32.2%) injuries which had resulted in
medical attention being sought included musculoskeletal injuries (55.1%, n = 27),
injuries due to motor vehicle accidents (44.9%, n = 22), needle-stick injuries (26.5%, n = 13) and assault-related injuries (8.2%, n = 4). Overall, 59 (38.8%) paramedics had
experienced occupational injuries (both reported and unreported). The paramedics’
perceived risk factors for occupational injuries included high speed driving (87.5%, n
= 133), violent members of society (87.5%, n = 133), heavy objects and patient lifting
(86.2%, n = 131), physical exhaustion (78.3%, n = 119), hazardous material (77%, n
= 117), and temperature extremes (73%, n = 111). In addition, the paramedics’
perceptions regarding occupational injury prevention revealed the following
precautions, namely, avoiding high speed driving (79.6%, n = 121), specific positioning
during equipment and patient lifting (63.8%, n = 97), avoiding chaotic scenes (61.8%,
n = 94) and avoiding working longer hours (49.3%, n = 75).
Conclusion: While it may be anticipated that information regarding occupational
injuries suffered by paramedics would not be public knowledge, access to this
information for purposes of research that aim to establish mitigation and prevention
strategies, should be subjected to fewer challenges. From the data that was available,
paramedics from KZN EMRS experienced multiple types of occupational injuries from
a variety of injury sources. These injuries could be a result of both, the nature of the
work and environment in which paramedics operate. However, further research is
necessary to identify and validate these findings, as well as presented strategies
required to minimise the rates of occupational injury among paramedics working for
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Health Sciences in Emergency Medical Care in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology, 2020.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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