Health & Safety Postbag January 2021


          Health and Safety Postbag

January 2021

Winter Driving: As snow and icy conditions sweep across the region, it is an appropriate time to remind ourselves to give our vehicles that extra attention when checking that they are in a roadworthy condition before setting off and if traction becomes intermittent then it could be that it is time to fit the Snow-Socks. Remember, if driving conditions deteriorate to that extent, then arriving safely is far more important than trying to arrive sooner…. and not making it. Allow extra time for the journey and exercise caution, especially around other drivers who may not have our level of training.

Vehicle Tyre Pressures: Following on from an incident where members of staff sustained injury, Fleet have issued guidance on when members can or cannot attempt to reinflate the tyres when they appear to be below pressure. If the tyre pressure is found to be less than 10% below the required then the drop would be minimal and it should be safe for members to reinflate the tyre. However, if the drop in tyre pressure is greater than 10%, the cause of the reduction could result in the tyre wall failing if members attempted to reinflate. In this case the tyre should be rectified by a Tyre Specialist.

Temperature Testing: Current guidelines advise that when taking your temperature, if the reading is above 37.8 degrees Celsius, you should return home and not enter the building or attend for work.

3M Respirator Hoods: The Trust has placed an order for another 200 hoods and is considering the option to make them a personal issue for members of staff that have failed the Fit Tests. The frequency of filter replacements and the conditions which would support this change are currently being discussed between the Trust and Unison at senior level.

Tyvek Suits: It has become apparent that there are three different suppliers of the one-piece suits and the sizes from each company are not identical. It is recommended that members of staff identify which size from each supplier best matches their individual requirements, before they are faced with a need to wear them.

Night Shift Worker Health Assessment: Unison has made the Trust aware of their obligation to provide a night shift health assessment for all members who are expected or required to undertake night shift work. The health assessment should be repeated a few weeks after they start working nights and at regular intervals to establish if their physical or mental health has been affected.

Bariatric Training: Initially, the Trust relied upon PAS to provide suitable bariatric capable ambulances to support our operations, but this was replaced when the Trust obtained a number of ambulances which had Bariatric capability which included the stretcher and manual handling equipment which had bariatric capability. The vehicles were staffed by members who had undergone the appropriate training in the use and management of the vehicle and equipment.

However, the training in safe use of the bariatric ambulance and equipment was not Trust-wide and only a limited number of staff have been trained in the use of the bariatric equipment and how to safely move patient with complex needs without sustaining injury themselves. Any member that is required or expected to physically move a bariatric patient using bariatric capability equipment must undergo training ion its use before they are required to use it. The standard issue manual handling equipment is different to the manual handling equipment provided to the teams that had dedicated bariatric vehicles and this matter is being raised at the upcoming Regional Branch Committee meeting scheduled to take place on 13 January.

Audiometric Testing: Members are reminded that they should notify their manager if they find their hearing is being affected by noise levels in the workplace which also includes buzzing or ringing in the ears and headaches. The noise levels in the work place be constant at lower levels or excessively high over shorter periods such as ambient noise caused by machinery, vehicle sirens or work processes.

Clinical waste on vehicles: The clinical waste bins and sharps bins on vehicles do not have unlimited capacity and should be closed / sealed when they reach their usable limit. Members should not overfill these units and should also closed / secure them at the end of the shift and remove them from the vehicle so that the MRO teams are not placed at unnecessary risk. Domestic waste should also be placed in the appropriate bags / bins and not left laying on the vehicle floor or door pockets.

Vehicle IPC Requirements: Before using a vehicle, members should decontaminate all surfaces which are common “touch-points” and these include external / internal handles, grab rails, seat adjusters, steering wheel, gear shift, parking brake, mirrors, sun visors, dashboard controls & switches. This should also be carried out after changes of driver.

With the current pandemic still a major issue, it is a national requirement that the level of cleaning in between patients is to an “enhanced level”. This means that the level of cleaning and decontamination of the vehicle interiors and all equipment is to a greater level than what was normally carried out pre-Covid.

For the Clinell wipes to be effective, they must be wet and the surface they are used on must remain wet for at least 30 seconds for the chemical to effective. Wipes that are dry or that dry out very quickly are of no benefit and should be discarded.

Trust Uniform: All members of staff should be issued with a full pack of work wear and this applies to all employees who are required to wear uniform or work wear, including Non-Emergency Services, Emergency Operations Centres, Scheduling and Workshops.

Concerns have been raised to the Trust that the current specification for ambulance uniform does not provide members with the wearer with the high level of conspicuity that is required for anyone working near moving vehicles unless the high visibility jacket and over trousers are being worn. These hazardous areas include vehicle garages and manoeuvring areas which members encounter throughout their shifts including outside of their rostered shift times.

Research carried out by Unison Health and Safety provided photographic examples of how ambulance services across Europe has addressed the issues. Their uniform specification includes hi-viz banding around trouser leg ends, sleeve ends as well as on the torso; their uniform has lightweight material for summer weather and heavier material for winter weather, options for short sleeved shirts or polo shirts (long sleeved for non-clinical staff) jackets with zip-off sleeves to create a Gillett and a removable inner liner. By taking this approach they have enabled their staff to be flexible in their approach to their clothing for each shift, allowing them to thermo-regulate their individual needs.

This concern has been raised to Unison Regional Offices and is our intention to take it forward Nationally in the best interest of staff safety.

Issues in the Workplace: With high turnover of employees, it is an opportune moment to remind staff how Unison has been regularly engaging with Trust management to discuss matters which have affected members in different parts of the Region.

The Trust and Unison have a long-established process known as Local Partnership Forums (LPF) and these meetings are attended by local managers and local Unison representatives, in order to resolve matters which have been raised in their locality. The aim of the LPF is to resolve the issues as quickly and amicably as possible in order to ensure that work continues as smoothly as possible. Unison representatives are entitled to attend these meetings in order to represent the members that elected them.

All minutes from the LPF meetings should be forwarded to the Staff-side Partnership Forum (SPF) which is attended by senior Trust managers and Senior Unison Officers who will have an oversight of all the LPF meetings which will enable them to identify any growing trends or locality concerns that appear to be escalating. SPF has a higher remit than LPF and can take decisions which will be implemented across the entire Trust. The dates and times of the LPF and SPF meetings are agreed early in the calendar notified by the Trust and also Unison.

End of Shift Retrieval: With the risk of crews finding themselves a great distance form their base stations at the end of their shift, it is a timely moment to remind everyone about the retrieval agreement.

Where members are faced with a long and tiring drive back to their base at the end of their shift, and they believe they are not safe to make the journey, they can contact EOC and request they be retrieved. This process should result in a vehicle with 2 persons being sent to their location; one will drive their vehicle back to base while the other person brings them back, thus avoiding the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. The crew being retrieved will still be counted as being on shift until such time as they reach their base station and complete their end of shift requirements and recorded as such on GRS.

Datix Reports: Members are reminded that a Datix report should be raised for all adverse incidents because the Datix system is the route through which the Trust carries out its audits. Where the incident affects health, safety and welfare of staff, the author is advised to tick the box requesting that Unison Health & Safety is notified. By doing this it ensures that the report is passed to Unison H&S with minimal delay.

Personal issue i-Pads: The Trust is taking steps to introduce the personal issue of i-Pads to all frontline staff and the eventual intention is to replace the ePCR with them. Unison Health and Safety has only recently been engaged with on this subject and from initial consultation it appears that the members will be enabled to use the i-Pads for personal use as well as for carrying out work related tasks. A trial of the soft wear is planned in the Beds & Herts area, however, there is still a lot of work to be carried out which includes a full and thorough risk assessment of the i-Pad, not just as a piece of electronic equipment, but also the impact on staff and security of the device. Initial information suggests that the i-Pad will be used to:

Sign staff on at the start of their shift
Sign-off the completion of Mandatory Roadworthy Checks and VDI’s
Reporting damage / defects / deficiencies identified during the MRCs / VDIs
Opening and completing Patient Treatment Records
Accessing patient records held at their GP Surgery
Signing off at shift finish
Access GRS to identify allocated shifts and shift changes
Access GRS to request leave
Complete monthly Time Sheets
Complete monthly Expenses claims
Access Trust Policies and Procedures
Access Trust Operational Instructions
Access Trust Clinical Updates
Raise a Datix report
Raise Vulnerable person forms
Access and complete mandatory training modules
Access e-learning packages

At present Unison health and Safety has not agreed to the roll out due to limited consultation and also because the mandatory Risk Assessment has still not been jointly agreed and signed off. There is still a lot of work to be carried out with regard to (1) where it will be carried / stored during shift (2) where it will be stored outside of shift (3) where and how it will be charged (4) insurance obligations if taken home (5) risk to the user of repetitive strain injury due to prolonged use without proper work surface, and finally (6) the introduction of this “personal computer” for all work related activity, not just inside an ambulance, should secure employees recognition that they are display screen equipment users, which the Trust previously agreed but is now retracting their decision.


Jeff Pittman    

Unison Health and Safety Officer

10 January 2021