Emergency Medical Services

About EMS Clinician Safety

Key points

  • Research shows that EMS clinicians have high rates of injuries and fatalities.
  • Job hazards include lifting, exposure to illnesses and hazardous substances, and transport in emergency vehicles.
Two EMS clinicians help a patient in an ambulance. Photo by Getty/482584125


Emergency Medical Services (EMS) clinicians provide pre-hospital emergency care and include emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. They may be paid workers or volunteers.

EMS can be provided by:

  • Private ambulance companies
  • Fire or police departments
  • Public EMS agencies
  • Hospitals


The 2020 National EMS Assessment reported a total of 1,030,760 licensed EMS clinicians in the United States. This estimate includes paid and volunteer EMS workers.

The 2022 Current Population Survey estimate for the number of employed EMTs and paramedics was 248,000. This estimate is limited to paid EMS clinicians.

Safety risks

EMS workers are vital to disaster response. Their duties create an inherent risk for on-the-job injuries and illnesses. EMS workers face many safety risks, including:

  • Lifting patients and equipment
  • Treating patients with infectious illnesses
  • Handling hazardous chemical and body substances
  • Participating in emergency transport of patients in ground and air vehicles
  • Potentially violent patients


EMS clinicians should:

  • Practice safe lifting
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Wear slip-resistant footwear
  • Use seatbelts in ambulances
  • Practice de-escalation techniques for potentially violent scenarios

EMS employers should establish policies, offer training, and provide needed equipment to:

  • Promote safe patient-handling techniques
  • Protect workers from blood and body fluid exposures
  • Prevent slips, trips, and falls
  • Improve motor vehicle safety
  • Implement workplace violence prevention programs


More on EMS clinician safety‎

See the NIOSHTIC-2 database search results on emergency medical services clinicians. NIOSHTIC-2 is a database of occupational safety and health publications funded in whole or in part by NIOSH.