As emergency medical service providers, paramedics in Illinois face numerous hazards in the workplace on a daily basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2011, the most recent year that statistics were available, EMS workers, including paramedics, were treated in hospital emergency departments throughout the U.S. for an estimated 27,800 work-related injuries and illnesses. Often, injured paramedics depend on the benefits provided through workers’ compensation to cover the costs of any medical care they may require, as well as to act as an income supplement for wages lost during their recovery.
Injury risks facing paramedics
In performing even the most basic of their job duties, paramedics are subject to a unique set of workplace hazards, which can put them at a greater risk for injury. The potential dangers paramedics face include the following:
- Adjusting, lifting or otherwise assisting patients with limited mobility
- Handling, or coming into contact with, hazardous chemicals or body substances
- Moving or lifting heavy equipment
- Transporting patients by ambulance or helicopter
- Treating patients, who are suffering from infectious diseases or illnesses
While there are policies and safety measures in place to protect paramedics while they work, not all accidents and incidents can be prevented. In an effort to curb the rising costs associated with the increasing number of work injuries for employees in this field, some state lawmakers have proposed amendments to Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act.
Proposed amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act
A new bill, known as HB 2229, was presented to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2013. The proposed legislation would amend the current law to establish a distinction between firefighters and paramedics. Furthermore, HB 2229 would put significant restrictions on the claims by paramedics for incidents involving exposure to certain types of pathogens and respiratory illnesses.
In effect, the bill would reduce the protection for paramedics who have suffered a work-related injury, or contracted an occupational illness, if approved. This would significantly decrease the benefits that paramedics in these situations receive.
A controversial bill
Since its proposal, people have come out both in support and in opposition of HB 2229. Those in favor of the bill suggest that it will result in the decrease of insurance premiums. Supporters argue that this will, more than likely, lead to an increase in wages for these workers over time.
People in opposition of the bill, however, argue that it would be taking necessary workers’ compensation coverage away from paramedics, who need that protection against the many risks they face in the workplace. This, those opposed to HB 2229 argue, is too much for the proposed positive effects to overcome.