Working as a paramedic can be an exciting and rewarding career. It can also be a dangerous job. According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 80 percent of full-time paramedics will be injured on the job or suffer a work-related illness in the course of their career. For emergency medical technicians, first responders and other medical professionals, workers’ compensation provides a crucial safety net. Recent changes proposed to Illinois legislation may make it more difficult for paramedics to receive the benefits they need to recover after an illness or injury.
What risks do paramedics face on the job?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has studied workers’ compensation cases filed by paramedics between 2011 and 2013. The majority of these claims fall into one or more of the following four categories:
- Exposure to pathogens and disease-causing agents
- Trauma caused by handling heavy equipment or lifting patients
- Exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, or other adverse environmental conditions
- Violent assault while on duty
Paramedics face these common hazards day after day, leading to a substantial number of workers’ compensation claims.
Proposed changes to Illinois law
A new bill was proposed to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2013. This piece of legislation, known as HB 2229, would change workers’ compensation law in Illinois by treating paramedics according to a different set of standards than firefighters and other emergency professionals. HB 2229 is designed to trim the state budget by restricting workers’ compensation claims for all paramedics who are not also cross-trained as firefighters. The bill proposes especially severe restrictions in cases that involve exposure to blood-borne pathogens and contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.
HB 2229 has attracted controversy in Illinois
Supporters of HB 2229 have argued that it will decrease insurance premiums, leading to higher wages and a better standard of living for paramedics and their families. Opponents of the bill, including many Illinois medical professionals, say that the proposed regulations are not enough to protect paramedics from the consequences of work injuries and illnesses. Emergency first responders, who are often exposed to pathogens such as HIV and tuberculosis bacteria on the job, have expressed their concern about the possible cuts in coverage.
As emergency medical care becomes more complicated, benefits for paramedics continue to be a topic of controversy. Learn more about your rights on the job by contacting a workers’ compensation attorney today.