Powered stretchers proven to reduce paramedic injury

Kinesiology professor Steven Fischer estimates the average paramedic team handles up to 300 pounds every time they lift, lower or load a stretcher. And all that weight adds up to a lot of spine compression.

The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board agrees. Their data indicate paramedics experience five times more workplace-related injuries than any other population.

Powered stretchers, which rise from ground to waist level at the touch of a button, can reduce this risk dramatically. But they come with a hefty price tag: up to $40,000 apiece.

Now, thanks to new Kinesiology research, there’s solid evidence that the stretchers are worth the cost. “We’ve found that moving from manual to powered stretchers can reduce the number of injuries by 78 per cent,” says Kinesiology grad student Daniel Armstrong, lead author in a study published this year in Applied Ergonomics.

The study came about when Niagara Emergency Medical Services reached out to Kinesiology for help in assessing the return on investment of their newly purchased powered stretchers. Under Steve’s guidance, the study compared Niagara’s injury rate with that of Hamilton Paramedic Services, which was still using manual stretchers at the time.

“The evidence was quite clear: injuries dropped in Niagara from 20 per 100 workers to 4.3 and rose in Hamilton from 17.9 per 100 workers to 24.6 over the same period,” says Steve. “We estimate the cost of the stretchers can be recovered in less than six years due to an associated reduction in injury-related costs.”