Health & Safety Postbag September 2019

Health & Safety Postbag – September 2019

Concerns have been raised that high numbers of road staff are failing to complete the VDI checklists at the start of their shifts or at later stages of the shift when time allows. These checklists form the basis of vehicle audits and should be completed. If not completed the reason why not must be written on them.

It is most important that road staff remain aware that they are legally required to carry out the Mandatory Roadworthy Checks (MRCs) which all drivers are expected to conduct at the commencement of their shift. These checks cover the “road vehicle” and there are currently NO EXEMPTIONS which ambulance employees can claim in support of not carrying out these checks.

The Vehicle Daily Inspection (VDI) covers the corporate checks, inspections and tests which the employer requires employees to carry out at the start of their shift. The Trust has stated that if the crew are assigned to a 999 Emergency call before the VDI is completed, the crew are to respond to that call and complete the VDI when they come clear from the call which interrupted it.

Unison Health & Safety has long maintained and argued that 15 minutes is not sufficient time to carry out all the checks, inspections and testing of the ambulance / equipment at the start of a shift. It has been noted that some road staff are reporting for duty up to half an hour before their shift start time in order to ensure that they have adequate time to complete these checks because they are not able to complete the tasks in the given time which can be interrupted. Employees undertaking this “work related activity” prior to their shift start time have not been claiming overtime payments because their pre-shift start times have not been approved, so in effect they are working for free which is not recommended or supported by Unison.

Carrying out work of this nature without renumeration has been the subject of two recent cases involving HM Revenue and Customs who ruled that all work carried out by employees prior to their shift start time or after their shift finish time must be paid for. Additionally, commencing these checks before shift start time gives a false impression to Auditors that the 15 minutes allocated is adequate, which it is not.

The new FIAT ambulances are starting to roll out and the training for all road staff will be conducted locally by authorised Trainers. This is to ensure that all members of staff receive full and proper training in the vehicle as well as the equipment which it will carry. The Trust has taken a long time to research and evaluate the equipment which is included in the Fiat ambulance specification and this included comprehensive testing and evaluation of several different “patient moving chairs”.

Some of these chairs had two wheels while others had four wheels and the decision was taken that a four wheeled chair was the safest way forward. The chair was also required to have a track system to facilitate easier movement of patients on stairways. Some of the 4-wheeled Stair Chairs where manually moved up & down stairs while others, albeit slightly heavier, were powered which further reduced the need for physical effort by the operator. The evaluation of stair chairs took over 18 months and not all members of staff involved in the process saw the powered chair as the best option; this resulted in further independent evaluation being carried out by an ergonomist, which caused further delay in a final decision on type being made.

The Fiat specification had to be agreed and approved in order for production to go ahead and this meant that IF the stair chair was ultimately NOT one of the powered types, there was a need for a winch system to be installed and a ramp system provided to enable the road crews to get the patient on the stair chair in / out of the ambulance. However, after production had commenced a decision was finally made as to which stair chair would be provided and this is a powered one, so the ramps and winch are now supplementary.

Over the past few years ambulance crews have raised their concerns about difficulties encountered moving stretchers in/out of premises that have an additional porch which results in the stretcher wheels becoming stuck in the space between the two sets of doors. Retaining the ramps on the Fiat ambulance loading list will enable crews to “bridge that gap” between the doors and move the stretcher or the chair in/out of the premises without becoming wedged in the obstruction.

Training for road staff will be conducted either during shift or on overtime and this will enable the Trainers to fully explain the why, where and how’s; the practical hands-on training is essential to ensure that all road staff undergo comprehensive training in the safe correct use of the Fiat and the equipment including the powered stretcher and the powered stair chair. To comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) only members of staff that have formally undertaken the conversion training and been signed off by the Trainers will be authorised to carry out shifts on the new Fiat ambulances.

UNISON has clarification from Senior EEAST managers that staff being asked to undertake mandatory training should be undertaking this in work time. This should not normally be as overtime to contractual working hours unless the overtime was agreement by both the employee and employer.

Work is still being carried out by the Trust to complete the “Imagery” Policy which will cover all manner of digital recording devices such as Dash-Cams, Body Worn Cams and Vehicle safety cameras. The Digital Recording machine has been withheld and will only be installed in the I.T. locker on the Fiat ambulances once the Imagery Policy has been agreed and signed off.

The new design and specification of the new Fiat ambulance includes many new features and layout changes to improve the safety of ambulance crews, patients and members of the public as well as improving the well-being of our staff.


Jeff Pittman

Unison Health & Safety Officer


Pause for thought:


Today is the Tomorrow we worried about Yesterday, but all is well.