HSE pushes for improved safety for ambulance crews

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a programme to improve
health and safety among ambulance crews.

The move comes as legislation to protect emergency workers in Scotland
gathers pace.

Ambulance crews are among the most likely public service workers to suffer
injury through lifting and handling, or as a result of aggression and violence,
the HSE has argued.

In response, the HSE, Ambulance Service Association (ASA), the Department of
Health and the GMB and Unison unions are developing a series of strategy
frameworks to help ambulance services adopt a consistent approach to managing
risks.

A conference to launch the first two frameworks on dealing with violence and
aggression against staff and patient handling practices was held in December.

ASA president Peter Bradley said: "Ambulance staff have had to face the
possibility of injury in the course of their duties, and this initiative will
help reduce that risk. This is a positive approach through joint working which
we hope all services will adopt to make the working environment for ambulance
staff much safer."

The frameworks could also be used as a template for other parts of the NHS,
suggested the HSE.

In Scotland, the Scottish Executive is currently carrying out a public
consultation on new laws designed to protect emergency workers from violence.

But doctors in the country have argued the laws will not go far enough, and
should be extended to all health care workers.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that while doctors subject to a
violent incident in A&E would be covered by the new protection, others,
such as those in intensive care, would not.

The scale of the problem is unknown, with many healthcare staff failing to
report all incidents of violence because they considered it "part of their
job".

A BMA survey last October found violence at work was a problem for almost
half of those polled, and only a third of violent incidents were reported.

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