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New crash test methods to help ambulance workers buckle up

NIOSH videos highlight ambulance design improvements

Posted May 31, 2017

Have you ever wondered what happens to the emergency medical workers in the back of an ambulance in the event of a crash? It turns out that they are at great risk of injury.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently produced a seven-part video series examining ten new crash test methods to improve ambulance design to keep Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers and patients safe during a traffic accident.

NIOSH found that wearing seatbelts can be a challenge for EMS workers, as seatbelts can interfere with patient care. In fact, a ten-year review of serious ambulance crashes conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 84 percent of EMS workers in the back of an ambulance were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Further, from 1992 to 2011, there was an estimated annual average of 1500 injury crashes involving an ambulance, and 2,600 injured persons (including occupants and pedestrians of all vehicles involved in the accident).

The new crash test methods look to create more crashworthy patient compartments in the ambulance, for both the patient and the EMS worker. The goals are to reduce the risk of flying objects injuring occupants in the event of a crash, make cots and seats more stable and crash resistant, and allow EMS workers to care for patients while remaining properly belted in a moving ambulance.

The project was co-funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in partnership with NIOSH, other federal agencies, and the ambulance manufacturing industry. NIOSH says its research contributed to the development of the ten new crash test methods, which were published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The new video series highlights the SAE test methods, crash-tested products, and improvements to the design of ambulance patient compartments.

Specific topics covered include:

  • Ambulance history, injury statistics and standards;
  • Crash testing an ambulance;
  • Patient compartment seating and restraint testing;
  • Patient cot, cot mount, and patient restraint testing;
  • Equipment mount and storage device testing;
  • Building a stronger patient compartment; and
  • Use of the Ambulance Patient Compartment Human Factors Design Guidebook.

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