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Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-102966
  • Workplace
  • Original article

An observational study of shift length, crew familiarity, and occupational injury and illness in emergency medical services workers

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  1. Thomas J Songer5
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  2. 2Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas HealthCare System Medical Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  6. 6Dickson Advance Analytics Group, Carolinas HealthCare System, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
  7. 7Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  1. Correspondence to Matthew D Weaver, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Landmark Center Suite 301 West, 401 Park Drive Boston, MA 02215, USA; mdweaver{at}partners.org
  • Received 25 March 2015
  • Revised 22 July 2015
  • Accepted 6 August 2015
  • Published Online First 14 September 2015

Abstract

Objectives Emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians are shift workers deployed in two-person teams. Extended shift duration, workplace fatigue, poor sleep and lack of familiarity with teammates are common in the EMS workforce and may contribute to workplace injury. We sought to examine the relationship between shift length and occupational injury while controlling for relevant shift work and teamwork factors.

Methods We obtained 3 years of shift schedules and occupational injury and illness reports were from 14 large EMS agencies. We abstracted shift length and additional scheduling and team characteristics from shift schedules. We matched occupational injury and illness reports to shift records and used hierarchical logistic regression models to test the relationship between shift length and occupational injury and illness while controlling for teammate familiarity.

Results The cohort contained 966 082 shifts, 4382 employees and 950 outcome reports. Risk of occupational injury and illness was lower for shifts ≤8 h in duration (RR 0.70; 95% CI 0.51 to 0.96) compared with shifts >8 and ≤12 h. Relative to shifts >8 and ≤12 h, risk of injury was 60% greater (RR 1.60; 95% CI 1.22 to 2.10) for employees that worked shifts >16 and ≤24 h.

Conclusions Shift length is associated with increased risk of occupational injury and illness in this sample of EMS shift workers.

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