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Emergency medical services (EMS) workers are primary providers of pre-hospital emergency medical care and integral components of disaster response. The potentially hazardous job duties of EMS workers include lifting patients and equipment, treating patients with infectious illnesses, handling hazardous chemical and body substances, and participating in the emergency transport of patients in ground and air vehicles. These duties create an inherent risk for EMS worker occupational injuries and illnesses; and research has shown that they have high rates of fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses.

EMS workers include first responders, emergency medical technicians (EMT), paramedics and others whose occupational titles may not always clearly indicate their EMS duties. For example, firefighters and nurses may provide pre-hospital emergency medical care as part of their routine job duties. In 2010 there were an estimated 210,000 full-time employed emergency medical technicians and paramedics. An additional 244,000 to 273,000 volunteer EMTs and paramedics were estimated in 2003.

In collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Office of Emergency Medical Services, NIOSH collects data on nonfatal injuries and illnesses among EMS workers by using the occupational supplement to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS-Work).  In 2008, there were an estimated 21,500 injuries and illnesses among EMS workers that were treated in US hospital emergency departments. The most recent injury and illness data are described in the data section of this topic page.  

In addition to the collaboration between NIOSH and NHTSA, there are a number of other ongoing coordinated efforts by various Federal agencies to improve occupational safety and health for EMS personnel. Information on some of these efforts is available at


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