The days of paramedics in Illinois consist of responses to emergencies. During these trips, you typically put your life on the line to save others. Exposure to the hazards of infectious diseases and the risks of contact with bodily fluids and blood of others are par for the course. Also, as a paramedic, you work in a variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors, and frequently among moving vehicles when you deal with crash victims.
As if those do not present enough danger, you will also have to deal with hazardous chemicals, excessive noise and severe psychological stress factors. The fact that you often have to lift and carry patients of varied sizes puts a toll on your body, leading to frequent time off work due to musculoskeletal injuries.
The hazards you will face
While paramedics face almost all the workplace hazards that workers in other industries face, the following potential injuries and illnesses are more prevalent in your occupation:
- Psychological strain: The constant contact with life-or-death circumstances can cause nightmares, depression and severe anxiety along with interrupted sleep patterns. You will frequently have to make on-the-spot critical decisions, adding to the psychological stresses.
- Blood-borne pathogens: Paramedics face many risks of infection by viruses such as Hepatitis B, C and HIV, which may lead to AIDS. Your work involves sharp instruments and surgical needles, and your frequent contact with bleeding patients with unknown health conditions is risky. Along with the threats of puncture wounds, bodily fluids and blood of patients can splash into your face if you work without a face mask and eye protection.
- Physical assault: Emergency workers have no choice when it comes to the locations to which they respond. In many cases, you do your work among street gang members or intoxicated bystanders, and assaults on paramedics occur frequently.
- Excessive noise: Paramedics rely on excellent hearing to distinguish calls for help and other cues; however, the sounds of engines, air horns and sirens continually expose you to excessive noise. Power tools for extrication and forced entry also contribute to the hearing loss that may affect you.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: The nature of your work requires constant kneeling, bending, stretching and lifting. The impact these repetitive motions have on your body can lead to occupational injuries that cause loss of workdays.
Where to get help
If you suffer a work-related illness or injury — mental or physical — during your job as a paramedic, you may find comfort knowing that the Illinois workers’ compensation insurance system is on your side. You may file a benefits claim to cover medical expenses and lost income. It may be a challenge to prove that your condition is work-related, and this is where the value of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney comes in. The lawyer can navigate the claims process on your behalf.