Why Employ Paramedics at Remote Worksites?

Employing paramedics on remote worksites means more efficient medical attention and fewer lost-time incidents.


Occupational safety is of paramount importance in our offices, warehouses, camps and worksites; safe working conditions promote job satisfaction while keeping workers on the job.

The people commonly assigned to deliver care are occupational first-aid attendants Level III (OFAIII) who respond to medical emergencies on site. While having an OFAIII on site is the minimum standard, organizations serious about the safety of their workers can go above and beyond – as evidenced by the recent trend of placing experienced primary care paramedics (PCPs) and advanced care paramedics (ACPs) on site.

Current WorkSafeBC regulations require high-risk worksites more than 20 minutes away from a hospital to be supported by an OFAIII with access to a first-aid room and transport vehicle. An OFAIII will perform to his or her scope of practice, but often an ill or injured patient will be referred elsewhere because the OFAIII does not have the training or authority to treat the patient beyond a basic level. When there is a life-threatening emergency, this is clearly necessary. However, when the injury is minor but nevertheless untreatable by the OFAIII, a productivity issue arises for employers, as the worker may not be able to return to work promptly, resulting in a lost-workday incident.

Professionals providing medical care come with a variety of backgrounds and not all “medics” are created equal. The differences in the education and scope of an OFAIII, PCP and ACP are significant and clearly defined (see chart). Beyond the classroom, paramedics gain much of their experience working for an ambulance service and attending a wide spectrum of medical emergencies. These interactions provide them with practical experience to identify and treat cases they might find on the worksite.

Under the supervision of a physician medical director, PCPs and ACPs can perform to the full scope of their license. A PCP can administer medications to ease the symptoms of common illnesses like asthma and diabetes. These interventions could save a time-consuming and costly transport out of camp. Likewise, an ACP has an even greater scope of care that extends to the use of narcotics for pain management and the ability to provide cardiac monitoring and airway management in the event of a life- threatening emergency.

Remote WorksitesParamedics have the necessary skills to provide higher-level interventions before referring a patient to the hospital. In ongoing health and safety management, reducing lost-time injuries and major incidents is important to everyone.

An efficient way to incorporate paramedics into the care model of remote work sites is through a “hub and spoke” response system. The highest-trained responder (i.e., an ACP) is stationed at the main camp/medical clinic, and is supported by a combination of PCPs and OFAIIIs strategically placed throughout the worksite to provide the appropriate level of care. Patients are treated on site and turned over to the ACP as required. With such a system, the employer benefits from a high-value safety program while patients receive timely and appropriate care.

Employers looking to attract and retain top workers should consider expanding their health and safety program to include experienced ACPs and PCPs supported by a physician medical director. By raising the minimum standard of care, employers can take comfort in knowing their employees and contractors will receive the right care at the right time.

By Thomas Puddicombe

Director, Business Operations, Iridia Medical


Article originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Mineral Exploration

A Journey North

My second trip to north this year has come to an end and I’m back to sunny Vancouver. Sunny you say? It is actually beautiful and sunny as I write this on the 9th of November and I can barely believe my eyes.

This trip was longer than usual – 3 nights instead of 2 – and was great. Things got off to a good start with an uneventful trip to Ft. Nelson. While cool, at -12, it was sunny and clear.

I had the pleasure of driving to camp with Ginette, one of our PCPs. She has been a regular in camp for the past year and knows the road well. She handled all the radio duties while I drove. The road conditions could not have been better for gravel roads. They are frozen solid and very firm. With little snow on them, I had to be conscious of my speed. 80km/hr is the max and after all the emails I’ve sent reminding people not to speed it was time for me to walk the walk.

When we finally made it to camp, some 2.4hrs later, it was almost time for dinner. We greeted the other members of the team and found our rooms.

The food in camps can be interesting. Because the workers are typically doing labour intensive work, there is usually lots of food available and there is usually gravy! This night was no different – gravy was on order. I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite meal but it was quickly forgotten with a prime rib dinner on day 2.

The next day I had my first rig tour. It was fascinating to climb the stairs to the rig floor. We were lucky enough to be there when the action started. The drill bit had to have a bearing replaced. As the drill was removed, the men got to work. This is not a job for those afraid of getting dirty! There is black colored fluid everywhere.

The guys move quickly and efficiently to replace the broken part and within a few minutes the bearing has been replaced and drilling resumes. If you ever get a chance to tour a drilling rig don’t pass it up.

The following day I headed was due to head to Ft. St. John. I good drive out and was in Ft. Nelson with plenty of time to spare. I visited the local library to get internet access – Rogers doesn’t work in Ft. Nelson – and reconnect to the world. After a couple hours I headed to the airport. The first thing I did was drop my rental keys in the drop box.

At check in, I was notified that the plane was going to be 2 hours late and did I want to leave the airport? Yes, I’d love to leave the airport but sadly I don’t have access to my truck anymore. Oh well, I guess I had better get comfy.

The plane arrived ‘early’ when it landed after 1.5hrs instead of two. The fun continued in Ft. St. John when the rental agency was closed. After a wait someone arrived and I was off to camp again. This drive was not as idyllic as my drive with Ginette. It was dark (8pm) and snowing. What a great combo! The good news is that for the most part the snow was not sticking to the ground and I made it camp. I had a good visit with Mark, the night ACP.

This morning started with breakfast with the whole team – night and day medics. We had a good visit and I had a chance to catch up with a safety advisor I had met nearly 5 years ago on my first trip to camp. By 10 in the morning it was time to hit the road again for the airport. I’m happy to report that my flight back to Vancouver was uneventful.

While I always enjoy my trips up north, getting home is even better.

Until the spring!

– Tom

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