The Ambulance Employees Association of Victoria (AEAV) has a problem of increasing incidence of violence against its members. The union raised its concerns about this (an increase of over 30% in the number of assaults over one year) with the management of the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS), and issued these Guidelines to its members.
One of the union's main concerns is that its members were increasingly being inappropriately dispatched as the primary response to violent incidents. Despite correspondence to the MAS, ECV, the company which despatches ambulances and provides information to the ambulance crews, continues to despatch paramedics to extremely dangerous situations with little or no information. This information is only supplied when requested, and even then, the paramedics believe that the dispatcher is making decisions about what and how much information is actually provided.
Too often ambulance crews are directed to respond to violent incidents as code "1" - that is to proceed to the incident as an emergency with a lights and sirens response, as fast as safely possible with no delay because the person may be in a condition which is time critical. In fact, only about 10-15% of cases are time sensitive emergencies. However, when paramedics are dispatched under a code "1", they literally rush right in - not an appropriate response if it is a violent incident and there are no police present.
MAS has a duty of care to provide as safe a workplace as possible for its staff. The union makes a further point that most paramedics do not have the training in survival techniques and do not possess the special skills or tools to assist them in dealing with potentially unsafe or violent situations.
The union requested that MAS provide information on the provisions and strategies that it might consider to reduce assaults against its members. Further it put a proposal to MAS including that it direct crews to respond to any violent/aggressive incidents as code "2" - that is as urgent cases to be proceeded to without delay.
In the meantime, the AEAV has issued the following guidelines to its members:
- Treat violent incidents as "unknown" or "unsafe" and respond on a code "2" to a secure area near the scene and do not enter unless it is deemed safe to do so by police after they have attended.
- In the event of a verbal or physical assault members should as soon as possible:
- Immediately remove themselves from the assault
- Notify communications centre for assistance (e.g. police)
- Inform their Occupational Health and Safety Representative and Team Manager (LOI) implementation
- Fill out Hazard Injury and Accident Book
- Notify the Metropolitan Ambulance Service Occupational Health and Safety Manager
- Notify the union.