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Designing ergonomic interventions for EMS workers: concept generation of patient-handling devices.

Conrad KM; Reichelt PA; Lavender SA; Gacki-Smith J; Hattle S
Appl Ergon 2008 Nov; 39(6):792-802
Fire service personnel and private ambulance paramedics suffer musculoskeletal injuries as they lift and carry patients while performing emergency medical services (EMS). Engineering changes, such as the design of new EMS patient-handling devices, offer a potential intervention opportunity for combating this problem. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to generate beginning ideas for the design of new EMS patient-handling devices that were framed within the contextual reality of the end user firefighter/paramedics. Guided by an ecological model of musculoskeletal injuries in the fire service, focus groups were conducted with 25 firefighter/paramedics from 13 suburban fire departments. Based on their availability, participants were assigned to one of three groups with each group focusing on a different EMS patient-handling scenario. Each group participated in two focus group sessions: one session to brainstorm ideas for devices and a second session to validate sketches of their design ideas. The sketches were professionally drawn by an industrial designer who attended all focus group sessions. Sketches, photos, videotapes, and written transcripts were content analyzed to describe the phenomena of interest. The ideas centered on EMS devices for lateral transfers, bed-to-stairchair transfers, and stair descent transport, and served as the starting point for the development of EMS devices in subsequent phases of a mixed method research study. The outcomes of this study were an improved understanding of the contextual issues that need to be considered in designing EMS patient handling devices and a set of industrial design sketches that served as a starting point for subsequent development of the devices. End user acceptance criteria for the devices included: affordability, portability/compactness, durability, operability including being quickly ready for use, and cleanability.
Muscle-function; Muscle-physiology; Muscle-stress; Muscle-tension; Posture; Rescue-workers; Rescue-measures; Medical-rescue-services; Body-mechanics; Emergency-responders; Musculoskeletal-system; Biomechanical-engineering; Biomechanics; Ergonomics; Back-injuries; Author Keywords: Emergency medical services (EMS); Firefighter; Paramedic; EMS patient-handling devices; Concept development; Low back disorder (LBD); Focus group
Karen M. Conrad, Division of Health Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, MC923, 1603 West Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60612
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
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Issue of Publication
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Low Back Disorders
Source Name
Applied Ergonomics
Performing Organization
University of Illinois at Chicago
Page last reviewed: August 26, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division