CHARLOTTE, NC -- When you call 911 for an emergency transport, an EMT and paramedic will show up within minutes.
Those emergency responders work several hours in a row to keep up with the thousands of calls they get each year.
But one former paramedic told WCNC in Charlotte he questions the number of hours EMTs and paramedics work with regards to driver fatigue.
The man didn’t want to be identified for fear of retaliation but says, “There were times that I have fallen asleep at a stoplight."
The man says he quit his job over concerns he may end up hurting someone based on the number of hours he was working.
WCNC started digging and his claims are correct: there are no state or local laws governing how many hours paramedics can work in a shift.
The man says, "I've run calls that I don't remember, there was one instance where I fell asleep for a moment with a patient in my care.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, "there are no state or federal regulations concerning the maximum hours an ambulance driver can be behind the wheel."
Some counties, like Chester County, S.C., carry guidelines regarding the maximum length of a paramedic's shift.
We went to Chester County to speak with the Director of Chester County EMS, Britton Lineberger.
“What's the most they can work on a given shift, regular hours and overtime work?” asked reporter Mark Boyle
“The most we like them to work is 48 hours,” said Lineberger.
“Do you think that is too much,” asked Boyle?
“No, I don't think that's too much,” the director replied.
In Chester County, there are three stations and all three have sleeping quarters.
Paramedics and EMTs do have downtime during their shifts and are encouraged to sleep.
“We don't regulate when they get naps or when they don't get naps, we give them as much downtime as possible,” Lineberger explained.
We did some checking and ambulance driver fatigue can indeed be deadly.
In New York, an ambulance driver died in a crash after reportedly falling asleep behind the wheel.
While North Carolina may not have regulations on the amount of hours ambulance drivers can be behind the wheel, MEDIC does.
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Locally, MEDIC says their rules allow for a max 80-hour work week.
The state does confirm there are studies in the works, that could pave the way for regulations to limit the hours emergency responders must spend, behind the wheel.
2WTK we checked with several EMS operations in our area:
Forsyth County--the max working hours for EMT's is 70 hours.
Alamance County-- 48 hour work weeks and a required 8 hours rest in between each shift.Guilford County-- cannot work more than 16 hours in a day and they must have 8 hours of rest in between each shift.
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