Team of medical workers beside an ambulance

11 Health and Safety Tips for EMTs

Protect yourself while treating patients

Team of medical workers beside an ambulance

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) work can be very dangerous. Especially for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who are asked to put themselves in difficult situations daily while offering life support services to those in need. However, it is essential not to forget your own safety as you focus on your patients.

We’ve compiled a list of 11 of the best health and safety tips for EMTs. We also strive to keep EMTs safe by providing comprehensive training for EMS professionals. If you are interested in starting your EMS career, check out our career overview: How to Become an EMT.

1. Understand the situation

The first step you should take when you arrive on the scene is to comprehend the situation as best you can. Although there is an urge to rush in and start helping people, this can result in “tunnel vision” and may cause you to overlook safety precautions or the need for additional assistance. Important points for sizing up an emergency scene include: scene safety issues, mechanism of injury, nature of the illness, number of patients, need for additional help, and triage.

2. Watch for dangerous conditions

After taking a moment to understand the situation, never assume that the situation is entirely under your control. Even after securing the scene, further problems and complications may develop. Be on the lookout for potential hazards, such as downed power lines, fuel leaks, unstable structures, vicious animals, or suspicious people, just to name a few. Even conditions that don’t seem threatening, such as an impending storm, loss of daylight, or a growing crowd of spectators, can become real dangers. The bottom line for EMS providers: Expect the unexpected.

Remaining aware of changing conditions, such as changing weather, increased spectators, and keeping your head up can help you stay safe and keep others safe, as well.

3. Consider cultural differences

Whether working in a large metropolitan city with a multicultural population or a rural area with a tight-knit community, it’s important to remember that cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic traditions may be different than yours. Even age, gender, sexual orientation, political associations, and socioeconomic status can affect how you approach, assess, and treat a patient. Taking some time to understand and respect these cultural differences can improve communication and help diffuse an otherwise stressful situation.

4. Wait for the police to secure violent scenes

When dealing with violent or dangerous scenes, you must remember that you cannot help others by putting yourself at risk. Let professionals such as police or firefighters secure the scene before you try to help. Rushing into a violent or dangerous situation can be catastrophic for the patients and yourself.

5. Remember your safety gear and equipment

Get in the habit of wearing your issued safety gear. This can include safety vests, gloves, goggles, facemasks, helmets, and EMS turnout gear. Not only are these items designed to protect you from injury, but they also limit or prevent exposure to dangerous chemicals, sparks, flying particles, patient assaults, biohazard splatter, and blood-borne pathogens.

Ambulance van on a highway

6. Operate the ambulance as safely as possible

There is never an excuse to drive dangerously. In most cases, you can go at acceptable speeds and still get to your patients in time to help them. Always pay attention to the weather and road conditions and ensure that you are driving in a manner that will mitigate any accidents. If you are too tired to drive safely, let your partner take the wheel. Remember that you aren’t just responsible for your safety but your partner’s safety, the patient’s, and the public’s safety.

7. Perform a pre-shift vehicle checkout

It’s crucial for EMS professionals to conduct a pre-shift vehicle checkout by inspecting oil levels, the tires, the siren, and the lights. You need to ensure that everything is in working order before you start your shift. This pre-shift audit extends to all the equipment and supplies as well. Are all the supplies and medicines onboard, batteries fully charged, and oxygen tanks full? Any vital tool or supply that is absent or inoperable can be disastrous on site.

8. Watch your back

Practicing proper lifting techniques and avoiding straining your body can help prevent injuries. One bad back injury can keep you off the job for weeks and, if severe enough, can be a lingering issue. Be sure to remember to lift with your legs when lifting patients. A few stretches at the beginning of a shift can also go a long way to keeping you safe.

9. Take care of your body

Your vehicle and equipment aren’t the only things that require regular maintenance. So does your body. Studies have shown that stretching daily, consistent exercise, good nutrition, and hydration help prevent on-the-job injury. Consider using your rig as a convenient stretching and exercise device. It has steps, handles, and pull bars all around it—so you can work in a workout throughout your shift. Do not come to work if you are under the weather or are not up to performing your duties to the best of your ability. Keeping yourself healthy is the best way to keep yourself safe.

10. Maintain good nutrition

Good nutrition to maintain health and energy is critical to EMS providers. Having breakfast helps break the overnight fasting period and ups your supply of glucose to boost your energy and alertness. Breakfast foods such as eggs, oatmeal, and flax seeds can help boost your energy and make a long day more manageable. Also, carry healthy snacks (such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and yogurt) and extra water on your rig to ensure you’re at full strength and well hydrated.

11. Cultivate a life outside of EMS work

A strong body is nothing without a healthy mind and spirit to back it up. Make sure to spend time away from work and pursue hobbies or activities that allow you to decompress and recharge mentally. Any activity that you enjoy can improve your health and well-being. A few hobbies that experts recommend include sports, reading, meditation, outdoor activities, yoga, and arts & crafts.

Remember that it’s just as important to take care of yourself as your patients. A good EMT can keep not just others healthy but themselves as well.

Medical workers standing beside an ambulance

About Unitek EMT

To have a successful career helping others, you must take care of yourself first. To help you start your career as an EMT, and to do it safely, visit Unitek EMT. We offer various training options to fit your needs, including an accelerated EMT program to get you mission-ready and certified fast.

Unitek EMT is one of the premier EMT schools in Arizona. Our mission is simple: to prepare the next generation of EMTs with the necessary skills and training to succeed. We also offer EMS Continuing Education courses to update your training and enhance your on-the-job skills. Unitek EMT instructors are experienced leaders in their fields, and our real-world training scenarios are ideal for aspiring EMT professionals.