What to focus on to improve ambulance safety
By Wayne M. Zygowicz, MS, EFO, CFO, EMT-P
Providing quality patient care in the back of a moving ambulance isn’t only chal- lenging, it’s dangerous and can lead to
significant injury in a vehicle crash. A sudden
stop, swerve or minor fender bender can result
in serious injury to unrestrained passengers.
Over the last decade, there’s been a growing
body of knowledge that suggests ambulance
crashes are recurring events in our industry.
Research and data collection on EMS injuries
and vehicle accidents have forced our industry
to recognize that we have a safety problem.
There are several interrelated factors that
affect ambulance safety. The design of the
ambulance—how it’s constructed and main-
tained—is at the top of the list. Only recently
have some ambulance builders started to
develop effective solutions to these construc-
tion issues and adopt modern safety designs.
As industry standards change, so will the
ambulances we purchase. New static and
dynamic testing requirements will force some
builders to improve the crashworthiness of
Building EMS transport vehicles and fire
trucks is part of my job and I don’t take those
responsibilities lightly. People’s lives may
depend on what ambulance we buy and how
we design it. Education is a key ingredient to
building a safe product that meets the needs
of our caregivers.
I’ve spent more than 20 years researching
construction methods and becoming educated on ambulance standards and design.
My research has taken me to U.S. ambulance
factories where I’ve photographed different
production styles, and I’ve traveled overseas
(Above.) Having a proactive maintenance plan can
prevent emergency run breakdowns, prolong the life
of the vehicle, avoid costly repairs and reduce costly
vehicle downtime. Photo courtesy Wayne Zygowicz