Existing Science on Human Factors and Ergonomics in the Design of Ambulances and EMS Equipment Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background: Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel face a disproportionally high risk for fatality and injury due to the nature of their work; and current ambulance and EMS equipment design standards do not adequately safeguard EMS personnel from sacrificing personal safety for patient care, a known human factors and ergonomic (HFE) design challenge. Despite the desire to include HFE interventions or considerations into a standard, the effectiveness of existing HFE interventions for EMS is unclear. Objective: Therefore, this study aimed to synthesize the peer-reviewed literature on the design features of patient compartments and EMS equipment that affect EMS personnel's performance or well-being. Methods: A scoping review methodology was applied to systematically search and screen for relevant articles, and extract data. Three databases (EmBase, Scopus, and PubMed) were searched, and search results were screened for articles that pertained to the performance or well-being of EMS personnel when interacting with the patient compartment or its associated equipment. Results and Discussion: Of the 4,125 search results, 48 relevant articles were retained, and then sorted into one of 3 categories: general design, patient handling, and patient transport. It was concluded that, although research has progressed over the past 15 years, more research, development, and resources are needed. Newer generations of ambulances have not been shown to be safer during collisions and there is a knowledge gap in how occupants and contents of a patient compartment behave during a collision. Crash-tests have been performed with restrained occupants and supplies; however, that scenario is unrealistic in the field. While the existing literature provided initial ideas and innovations for improving the HFE of patient handling and patient transport, it is important for future research to convey findings in a manner that can be used to inform design standards.


  • Du, Bronson
  • Boileau, Michelle
  • Wierts, Kayla
  • Hignett, Sue
  • Fischer, Steven
  • Yazdani, Amin

publication date

  • September 3, 2019