What can an Emergency Responder do if they have been injured at work
Emergency Responders (including Ambulance Crew, Paramedics, members of An Garda Síochána and The Fire Service) deal with people who have suffered injuries every day. Whether it is a car accident or a heart attack, Emergency Responders are usually the first on the scene to take care of the injured member of the public.
What happens when an Emergency Responder themselves suffers an injury during the course of their employment?
The role of an Emergency Responder is a risky one. Emergency Responders are exposed to physical and psychological injuries every day. The physical, stressful, emotional and rapid nature of the care they provide means that unfortunately, some will suffer injuries while at work.
We have come to learn that Emergency Responders almost “expect” that they will suffer injuries in their job. In our experience, Emergency Responders endure a lot and will carry on as best they can with their jobs. The reality is that an Emergency Responder, no more than any other person in their place of work, should not be exposed to injuries by their employers. The following are examples of types of situations and injuries that we see reoccurring.
An Emergency Responder’s job can involve anything from handling objects, such as trolleys to lifting patients and debris. We have met many Emergency Responders who have suffered injuries to their back doing these tasks. An employer, be it the HSE or a private entity, are obliged to properly and regularly train Emergency Responders in manual handling and must provide adequate personnel and equipment to enable lifting and manoeuvring of objects and persons to be undertaken safely. We do not accept the “lack of resources” excuse when it comes to proper equipment for manual handling. It is essential that all of this equipment is up to standard and serviced as required.
2. Slips, Trips and Falls
Floor surfaces must be suitable for the place they are in and they should be kept in good condition. While obviously the floor on which Emergency Responders traverse varies from call out to call out, we find that a lot of our clients in this profession suffer slips, trips and falls while in the hospital delivering patients! This is mind boggling considering the terrain that Emergency Responders cross everyday while out on duty. These injuries are usually caused by obstacles/items on the floor. Hospitals and other care facilities are busy places and people are often under pressure. This can, unfortunately, mean that you are left with floors that may be wet, greasy or have some item left on the floor.
Further, if an Emergency Responder is injured while out on duty, for example, while climbing down a ravine to a provide assistance, the fact that it occurred out in the field does not always absolve the employer of liability. In these circumstances, there should be adequate equipment provided (including footwear). Also, Emergency Responders must be trained appropriately on how to deal with such instances and there must be proper policies in place guiding Emergency Responders on how to approach matters.
3. Work Related Violence
We have dealt with many frontline medical staff who have suffered terrible injuries when they have been assaulted at work. For example, we recently acted for a healthcare worker who was assaulted by one of the clients in the healthcare facility in which he worked. The health care facility was a high secure residential facility. The healthcare worker was physically assaulted by one of the clients and suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result. It was clear that inadequate training had been provided to staff members. We were able to demonstrate this and succeeded in negotiating a substantial settlement.
Given the prevalence of alcohol and narcotics in our society, and the effect they have on consumers, we find that frontline medical staff are being exposed to more extreme erratic behaviours when called to assist such persons. Appropriate training must be provided on how to deal with such situations. There must also be appropriate policies outlining how to deal with these incidents.
If you have been injured, you may not know what to do next. At this junction, it is important to stress that an injury can be physical or psychological. When dealing with victims of assault, we find that the psychological symptoms can be far more severe and longer lasting than the physical injuries. Below is a snap shot of the steps that one should take if they have been injured while at work:
- Medical Attention – Make sure you get the appropriate medical attention as soon possible for your injury.
- If you have fallen (and once you receive medical attention), try to see what caused your fall. Keep a note of the footwear that you were wearing.
- Report it! – It may seem obvious but when you are injured you may forget how important it is to report the accident/incident to your superiors. You may be asked to complete an accident report form and you should ask your employer about that and seek a copy of it once completed.
- Who was there? – We recommend that you keep a note of any witnesses to the accident. If we are consulted at a later stage about your accident, we will speak to those witnesses.
- Seek Advice – You may need advice on a Personal Injury claim* and what to do if you are out of work. Your employer does not have to pay you while you are out of work, unless it is provided for in a sick pay scheme. Often HSE employees will be entitled to sick pay unless their sick days are expired. While you may be entitled to sick pay, you may still be at a loss in relation to overtime etc.
In order to establish an entitlement to compensation it will be necessary to show that your employer was at fault. For an employer to be at fault he/she does not have to push an employee down a stairs. It does not have to be as blatant as that. Fault can manifest in a number of ways, for example:
- failure to provide a safe place of work e.g. are there adequate security personnel employed in the Accident & Emergency Department? The presence of such personnel may deter those who may be contemplating an attack and can intervene if the worker is attacked,
- failure to provide safe employees e.g. employing unskilled co-workers in a skilled field,
- failure to provide the appropriate equipment e.g. requiring employees to lift, when a hoist should have been provided and,
- failure to provide staff with adequate training e.g. failing to provide manual handling training to staff.
Jody Cantillon is an Associate Solicitor in the Litigation Department at Cantillons Solicitors, Cork. Jody advises and represents clients in relation all aspects of Litigation including Personal Injuries Litigation, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, Defamation Law and Data Protection.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.