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August 7, 2020 9:05 AM

Ambulance ergonomics addressed through development of new national standard

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) has published a new Canadian Standard on Ergonomic Design for Ambulances and related Equipment (CSA D500). The development of the standard was spearheaded by Conestoga researcher Dr. Amin Yazdani, director of the college’s Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance (CISWP).

Conestoga College - Amin Yazdani - SCC 2018.jpg
Dr. Amin Yazdani spearheaded the research behind a new Canadian standard on ergonomic design for ambulances and related equipment.

“Maintaining the health, wellbeing and effectiveness of our paramedic workforce is of the upmost importance,” said Yazdani. “The national standard specifies requirements to facilitate the application of ergonomics into ambulance design and describes a user-centred design process for establishing additional ergonomic requirements, as necessary.”

In Canada, there are approximately 28,000 paramedics serving more than 37 million people. Research has identified that paramedics are a high-risk worker group for developing physical and mental health injuries. EMS personnel are nearly three times more likely to suffer from injuries that require time away from work, and 13 times more likely to suffer from low back pain, when compared to other industries.

“EMS personnel provide an essential service, but it comes at a cost for them. Most paramedics work long hours, are engaged in shiftwork, are exposed to traumatic events and have limited job control. They are exposed to high levels of physical demands and environmental hazards, and they are required to work in poorly designed vehicles that increase their risk of workplace injuries and disabilities,” explained Yazdani. “Until now, ergonomic guidelines, standards and research specific to ambulances and EMS equipment design were not readily accessible or applicable.”

Yazdani identified the need for the standard while attending a sector-specific workshop in 2016 and collaborated with several stakeholders and researchers to build an effective partnership for this initiative. Although the essential tasks of patient handling, care and transport cannot be eliminated, the design of the ambulance and its associated equipment, which play a significant role in how EMS personnel interact with their patients, is modifiable.

Yazdani and University of Waterloo researcher, Dr. Steven Fischer, led the research behind the standard. Yazdani also co-chaired the CSA Group’s technical committee, representing several stakeholders, responsible for developing the national standard. The project was funded by Defence Research and Development Canada and involved a range of partners and stakeholders including the Paramedic Association of Canada, Paramedic Chiefs of Canada, the Centre of Research Expertise for Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders and the County of Frontenac.

CISWP will host a series of webinars to promote the standard and support stakeholders as they implement it. It is intended to be used by government and regulatory authorities, manufacturers and distributors of ambulances, distributors of equipment, paramedics, paramedic organizations and other interested parties.

Yazdani and team have also been working with the paramedic community on other projects funded by Defence Research and Development Canada to improve the performance, health, safety and wellbeing of Canadian paramedics. The projects demonstrate CISWP’s partnerships and expertise in the development of innovative solutions for the paramedic community.

More recently, CISWP was awarded $75,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada as part of the College and Community Innovation Program - Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19. CISWP will use the funding to develop a guideline for addressing the mental health impacts of COVID-19 among Canadian paramedics.

Yazdani also spearheaded the research behind a new national standard on work disability management systems. Known as CSA Z1011, the Workplace Disability Management System standard offers guidelines to help organizations in the hiring, onboarding, retention, management and return to work of people with occupational and non-occupational disabilities. Its guidelines can be adopted by organizations of any size and in any sector.

The Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness & Performance, located within Conestoga’s School of Business, works to improve the safety, wellness and performance of the Canadian labour force by generating knowledge, transferring research to practice, and strengthening workforce development — all in collaboration with stakeholders.

For more information, contact Dr. Amin Yazdani or project manager Bronson Du.

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