Post Bag December 2014

Christmas is just around the corner and the sub-zero temperatures have already made an appearance. We have seen an increase in staff numbers, some from other Trusts and some new to the service in general. With this in mind I have collated the most talked about subjects into this month’s Post Bag, in no particular order of preference or importance.

Footwear: Operational members of staff are entitled to have two pairs. This is to enable them to allow them to dry out and air between shifts, which also reduces bacterial growth in the materials. Members of staff should submit a replacement request in sufficient time for the replacements to arrive before the existing ones become unusable. If footwear or other parts of uniform are removed by the Police for forensic purposes then replacements can also be requested and hastened.

Senior Paramedics and Senior Technicians: This has been well received across the Trust and forms an essential part of staff development & progress. There will be no changes to items of uniform however those members of staff that have been upgraded are entitled to have “Senior Paramedic” or “Senior Technician” on their Trust Identity Card.

Violence and Aggression: The Trust Health and Safety committee would be grateful if members of staff that have suffered violence & aggression during the course of the work, which resulted in the assailant facing charges and being sentenced or having other sanctions imposed, could inform the committee by passing details to Anne Wright or Danny Daniel.

Allocation of Calls: The Trust has issued ESOP 25 which gives directions to EOC staff in the allocation of calls to ambulance crews who have passed their meal break or shift finish time. When a crew are assigned to a call and have passed their meal break (or shift finish time) they CANNOT be assigned to another call (even of a higher category) unless the dispatcher first contacts the crew to ask if they are prepared to accept the next call.

If the crew decline the next call, they are to be left on their original call. If the crew accept the next call, they will THEN be stood down from the original call and given the next call which they may have to see through to completion including the conveyance of patient to hospital. If this call is then cancelled the crew cannot be given an additional further call or returned to the original call.

This will prevent situations whereby the crew have been stood down and expect to have their meal break (or to go home) only to be given a further call which has caused problems in the past.

Lowestoft Fire Stations: Members of staff working in the Waveney and East Suffolk areas now have an additional Response post on the north side of Lowestoft. Access is only possible if the vehicle has a Fire Service authorised key fob on the ignition key ring. No Fob? No access. Simples !

Meal Breaks: The agreement is that EOC should confirm the meal break time to crews at the start of their shift. Once this allocated time has been passed to the crew it cannot be changed by EOC unless it has first been discussed and agreed with the crew.

EOC can contact the crew and offer them the opportunity for an earlier meal break if the call volume is low; likewise if a crew are at a response post and nearing their meal break time they can contact EOC and offer to start their meal break earlier if the call volume is manageable.

Mandatory Roadworthy Checks: Unison has been working with the Trust to establish a period of protected time at the start of the shift during which the crew will not be disturbed while they carry out the Mandatory Roadworthy Checks of their vehicles.  Initial discussions agreed that a trial period of 3 months should provide sufficient evidence to support how long members of staff require to carry out these Mandatory Roadworthy Checks. Once these checks have been completed the vehicle can be considered as meeting the legal obligations at that time and the crew allocated to calls.

In the past fortnight it was agreed that it is more important to get a final agreement rather than having a trial period that would drag on well into 2015. It has been proposed that 15 minutes protected time at the start of the shift should be adequate time to carry out these legal obligations. At this moment in time we are waiting for Management to give the rubber stamp to this proposal which when authorised would be a Trust-wide agreement.

In the interim, members of staff are reminded that the driver is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle complies with all legal requirements. The driver cannot escape these responsibilities.

In these times of increased 999 call pressures imposed upon emergency services personnel, we understand that we must all do what we can to become more efficient. However there is no excuse for allowing vehicles in substandard condition to be used on the roads. It matters not if this is actively encouraged or if the responsible person has simply acquiesced, the following items MUST be checked or tested prior to taking a vehicle onto the highway:

  1. Bodywork : Intact and free from any damage or sharp edges that could cause harm or injury
  2. Doors: All entry doors and external locker doors open and shut fully
  3. Wheels: Tyres are free from defects, have the legal tread depth and are correctly inflated
  4. Lights: All in a working condition, pairs are of equal intensity
  5. Reflectors: All reflectors, reflective markings and number plates, clean and damage free
  6. Engine bay: Engine oil, radiator antifreeze and windscreen washer fluid levels to right level
  7. Windscreen: Clean outside and inside, free from damage
  8. Wiper blades: Free from damage
  9. Wing mirrors: Glass clean & free from damage, adjusted for the driver & remain in position

In-Cab Checks:

  1. Driver's seat: Adjusted for the height, rake and position of the individual driver
  2. Parking brake: Functions fully
  3. Engine starts: Instrument warning lights function and extinguish
  4. Windscreen: Washers and wipers function fully providing clear vision
  5. Road fuel: At least half a tank of fuel depending on employers requirement
  6. Traffic indicators: Function fully including hazard warning lights
  7. Audible warnings: Road horn and sirens function (test outdoors not in garage area)
  8. Seat belts: Seat belts in crew cab and rear saloon fully serviceable
  9. Foot brakes: Test brakes outside on the road when safe to do so
  10. Tail-lift: Within its service window, functions fully, SWL and max Person signs present
  11. Stretcher Trolley: Within its service window, free from damage, raises and lowers, functioning fully
  12. Documentation: Within its service window, current MOT and Vehicle Defect Log present


  1. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  2. The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986
  3. Road Traffic Act 1988
  4. The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989
  5. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
  6. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
  7. The Highway Code
  8. The Ambulance Service Driving Manual

Flammable Atmospheres : Members of staff are reminded that electronic equipment on our vehicles is not intrinsically safe. They should not be used in high risk areas such as Timber Mills, Bakeries or Refuelling points. To prevent inadvertent use, the following information is advised when planning to refuel:

  1. Inform EOC that you are about to refuel the vehicle
  2. Press and hold button 2 on the airwave radio prior to entering the refuelling area.  This will inhibit the transmission mode.
  3. Commence vehicle refuelling. If a message or call comes in while you are refuelling, EOC will know that you are refuelling and not able to reply at this time.
  4. After refuelling, complete payment and documents then leave the refuel area.
  5. Press and hold button 2 on the airwave radio. This will reactivate the transmission mode. You will then be able to inform EOC that you have completed refuelling and are able to respond to the message.

Confirmation about button 2 function is on the Airwave radio pocket guide.

Personal Contact Details: Members of staff are reminded that it is their responsibility to notify UNISON of any changes in circumstances such as surname, clinical grade, home address, email address or base station. In recent months members of staff have not received postal information because they had moved house or base station without letting anyone know. Have YOU moved house? Are you still working from your original base station? Have you notified the Trust and UNISON?

Please contact Topaz Micallef on 07772 480669 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make any changes to your membership details.

ePCR: Have you experienced problems with the ePCR? Has the battery suddenly gone flat? Areas where you are not able to get a signal? Trouble with docking? The only way that the Trust can audit the ePCR and its reliability is if you raise a Datix report whenever you have problems with it.

New Ambulances: There will shortly be a survey monkey seeking your feedback about the new DSA (Double staffed ambulances). They are your workplace. Do the new ones meet your expectations? What aspects are YOU happy with? There will also be a section asking for feedback from members of staff that crew the current RRV fleet. Keep a weather eye open for the Monkey. It’s cold enough!


Jeff Pittman

Branch Health & Safety Officer

15 December 2014