The union says almost 1,500 of its members in colder parts across the state are being placed at risk due to lack of necessary and needed equipment. These garments are also required for their much effective work performance such as faster response to emergencies, appropriate performance of medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities specifically in some regions with cold weather. However, this problem actually slows down the emergency healthcare workers because of the fear of putting themselves into health and safety harm. Proper training won’t be enough without the proper suits, so to speak.
People’s lives often depend on their quick reaction, competent care and willingness to take action to emergency calls. Yet paramedics are still immune to risks especially being exposed to environmental threats such as cold weather. Their work is physically strenuous and can be stressing, sometimes putting the condition at worst involving life-or-death situations. The Ambulance Paramedics Union believes that the improvement of safety and protective clothing for them will become a big relief of what they say is an occupational health and safety issue.
The Policy Manager for the Ambulance Paramedics Union, Corrie Richmond, says the level of protective clothing offered is not adequate and must be improved. She also questions the bias distribution of safety garment supplies to other emergency services such as the policemen, firefighters and others which in fact has the same level of work hazards as to them.
“At the moment they're providing one set of thermal undergarments in cold areas across the state,” Ms Richmond said.
Thermal garments are clothing close to skin which is used to trapped body heat to insulate against cold air. Paramedics without the proper clothing being exposed to such dangerous environment are very prone to experiencing thermal discomfort, increased strain, decreased performance and cold-related diseases and injuries. Cold also can modify or aggravate the risk of common hazards and increase the risk of cold-associated injuries, which may not very far lead to serious health problems.
She says paramedics work long hours, with many shifts in a row and sometimes "there's not even time to clean those undergarments". Currently, the Ambulance Service provides individual snow kits but only to paramedics who work directly in the snowfields. Ms Richmond says all paramedics with the same needs should receive the same protective clothing, especially those who are working in areas near the snowfields. Ms Richmond says the Ambulance Service should operate in the same way as other emergency services. “The police have three levels of cold climate protection that they offer,” she said.
“We are not even close to getting the same protection as our counterparts,” she said. “They're provided with snow vests, warm socks and warm gloves and we are not provided with any of that.”
The New South Wales Ambulance Paramedics Union through this campaign hopes to receive fast response to the improvement and provision of all the needed equipment not only for their safety but also for better service.