Ambos Under Reporting Assaults
Assaults and violence against paramedics in the workplace are at an all time high but under reporting may hide the true figures.
Paramedics are facing up to 300 assaults each year, although the actual number may be much higher with employees under reporting or simply accepting assaults as just “part of the job” according to Ambulance Employees Association Assistant Secretary Danny Hill.
“Unfortunately it is something that paramedics have become used to,” Mr Hill said.
“Those figures don’t even scratch the surface — they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Violence against paramedics has become, to a degree, normalised”.
Mr Hill stated that paramedics might be under reporting incidents such as being sworn at, threatened, intimidated or blocked from performing their duties due to not considering these acts to be occupational violence.
“One of the things that we need to see changed is what is reported and what is regarded as threatening behaviour or occupational violence” he said.
According to Ambulance Victoria (AV) Peer Support Officer and Paramedic Mary Armstrong, paramedics who have been in the job for a long time are the most likely to under report as they have become so used to being assaulted in the workplace.
“I’ve been physically assaulted, kicked and spat at…definitely lots of verbal assaults, intimidation,” Ms Armstrong admitted.
“However, usually I’m pretty aware of situations which is pretty important”.
AV has been conducting intensive investigations into the cause of occupational violence in the hope of educating paramedics and increasing their safety.
AV Health, Safety and Well-being representative Kerry Power stated that a lot of these assaults could have been avoided had paramedics either approached the scene differently or withdrawn earlier.
“We developed several clear key messages that we provided to the workforce and these messages have been well received,” said Mr Power.
“A lot of effort has gone into making sure paramedics realise that their safety is paramount.”
“AV is not prepared to accept any level of aggression towards paramedics”.
Mr Power said that paramedics would be taught to better recognise situations where there was a potential for violence and to withdraw rather than put themselves at risk.
“If [paramedics] have attempted de-escalation strategies with a particular individual and those strategies have failed, they have to make a decision to withdraw” he said.
“Their safety becomes paramount.”