The issue of the new “Mandatory Out of Service Operational Procedure” is a hot topic at the moment. Basically, it is a procedure that the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) have put in place to govern the end of shift dispatching on 12 and 10 hour shifts. QAS claim the intention of this procedure is to ultimately reduce shift extensions and to set a procedure for all OPCENS and supervisors to follow to manage shift extension and fatigue.
The opinion of the Australian Paramedic Association Queensland (APA Qld) is anything that assists in reducing end of shift overrun and fatigue is a positive step. APA Qld note that this is the first procedure written by QAS that we are aware of to govern state-wide operations for dispatching cases to crews beyond shift completion. However APA Qld have deep reservations if this procedure will produce what it claims to achieve. APA Qld believe that while an ever increasing workload is being managed by an under resourced service, any written “procedure” will have nil effect, despite good intent.
The greatest point of contention though is that crews on a 10 hour shift that have been placed in “out of service” at the end of their shift can be recommended for dispatch to code 1A and 1B cases, pending approval of a supervisor. Also, after the end of a 12 hour shift after being placed “out of service” crews can be dispatched to any case at the discretion of a supervisor in exceptional circumstances only.
Previously in Metro North LASN and Metro South LASN all shifts have been put ‘out of service’ after they have completed their rostered duty hours, but this has not been the process in a lot of other LASNs.
It is the position of APA Queensland that the definition of “Out of Service” means just that, “Out of Service”. 10 hour shifts make up a rostered matrix of your 40 hour work week, and hence there should be no difference between working 10 hours or 12 hours when it comes to availability for dispatch to any case at the end of your shift.
APA Qld ask that QAS review this procedure and make further progress to include that 10 hour shifts and 12 hour shifts are treated the same under the procedure.
QAS are entitled to make staff do reasonable overtime as per industrial agreements negotiated by United Workers Union (UWU) previously United Voice. “No employee shall refuse to work a reasonable amount of overtime.” (QAS Certified Agreement 2017). Unfortunately, UWU has never had reasonable overtime quantified, so QAS can always use the emergent circumstance to define overtime. In saying that, if there are circumstances where you, as an employee, are threatened with a penalty to continue working past the end of your shift, we encourage you to inform us.
APA Queensland hopes that the procedure is implemented as it was intended and that breaches of the procedure are monitored and reviewed. APA Queensland has made arrangements to track instances where there are concerns regarding breaches to the procedure. We would appreciate members notifying us via our website of any concerns that they have regarding the new procedure, particularly, if there are no reasonable attempts made by OPCENS and Supervisors to limit your potential shift extension. Please find the submission form at the following link. https://www.apaq/members-area/forced-end-of-shift-overtime/. If you need industrial advice because of this issue you can contact us at https://www.apaq/members-area/member-enquiry/ .
APA Qld cannot stress enough to all of our members the importance of fatigue management.
In the “Mandatory Out of Service Operational Procedure”, QAS state that fatigue is:
” The physical and psychological condition that accumulates when an individual’s optimal physical or mental limits are exceeded. Fatigue can be attributed to a range of factors including: lack of recovery sleep; time on task; and time of day and body clock (circadian rhythm).”
The “Employee Health and Fitness for Duty” policy also states:
“All workers are required to:
• Monitor their health, safety and wellbeing……
Personal fitness for duty factors may include, but are not limited to:
o insufficient sleep/fatigue
o excessive work hours/ demands
o personal factors e.g. family issues”
All QAS personnel have a duty of care and are required under legislation to recognise all Workplace Health and Safety issues inclusive of fatigue.
APA Qld cannot stress enough the importance of your requirements under legislation. The role that all QAS employees perform is vital for the community, from the Emergency Medical Dispatchers, Patient Transport Officers and Paramedics. We all have to be at the top of our game. If you are fatigued then that will impact on your performance. It is your responsibility to recognise it.
Some factors that could impact on fatigue include, driving for over 8 hours, trying to dispatch an inadequate level of resource to an overwhelming workload, working nonstop without a break for a significant amount of time, or continuing high acuity workload both in the EMD, PTS and paramedic environment.
If you are fatigued and it is impacting on how you perform, you have a duty of care to manage that fatigue. You also have a duty of care to complete a Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Report if the fatigue was caused by issues that can be remedied in the workplace.
Usually QAS procedure is that if fatigue is caused because of work circumstances there is no impact on payment of duty hour pay while recovering from fatigue. If the fatigue is caused by circumstances outside QAS control then sick leave has to be taken if the recovery impacts on duty hours.
So if you if you feel too fatigued to continue on shift extension, you are duty bound to stand down and do a SHE report. You cannot claim sick leave on overtime, and they are not your duty hours.
APA Qld cannot stress enough to all our members that their health and safety comes first. Family also has to have a high priority. All QAS staff have a private family and a QAS one, but your private family should always come first. The QAS also have a responsibility to supply an emergency service and to ensure their personnel can supply that service.
APA Qld Executive Committee