Travelling for OT
Ambulance Tasmania have attempted to fill all vacant shifts including using out of region staff, and we welcome that approach, but there’s been confusion about travelling allowance (TA) entitlements when travelling for OT.
The award clearly says TA is payable where overnight accommodation is needed, so if a member overnights they get it - it’s ridiculous to suggest a person would qualify for TA to do a day shift going to Wynyard from their normal base at Devonport, but not from Hobart to Burnie.
We consider travel is classed as work time if travelling up and back in a day, including pre/post night shifts. The period of work if travelling for a single shift would include reasonable travel time beyond the normal place of work or normal residence, whichever is closer. This is defined in schedule 2 of the agreement in relation to service meetings when doing committee work, so it would be reasonable for this to also apply when working out of region.
No shift shall exceed 14 hours, but this only applies to rostered hours of work, and AT must provide members with adequate fatigue mitigation. This would include accommodation for night shifts and potentially for day shifts if there’s a long drive to and from work such as between the North West and Hobart– we’d expect staff to be provided with accommodation even for a day shift as to do otherwise could be very risky.
Pre and post shift breaks also must be applied, which would be 9 hours after completing work (including associated travel time).
The AESB executive, delegates and HACSU staff are aware the increase in long distance driving in the North West and North is causing unprecedented fatigue levels, yet AT claims our anecdotes aren’t real and there’s no ‘evidence’ of increased fatigue, but we’ve been discussing this with management to find a suitable way to manage additional fatigue for these long and irregular transports.
HACSU doesn’t believe the sleep/wake model of fatigue management captures the type of fatigue caused by increased inter-hospital transfers or changes to normal ED access, and AT have previously admitted their fatigue calculator is flawed but still insists there are no fatigue concerns…
Fatigue factors include the inability to swap drivers or arrange rendezvous due to PPE requirements, lengthy deep cleaning of ambulances, long dead legs with no patient, multiple long trips in a single shift, ramping, specific patient protocols and road and weather conditions.
AT and employees both have a responsibility to monitor workplace health & safety issues such as fatigue and make decisions based upon risk management best practice principles to minimise fatigue-related events.
If staff report as fatigued it’s not ok for any manager to challenge their preparedness for the shift as this doesn’t mitigate the risks – they've notified that they're fatigued, whatever the reason, and it must be managed.
We need members help to highlight this issue by doing the following:
1. Click here to complete a 2 minute anonymous online survey so we can present members' experiences statistically. Feel free to add comments, especially suggestions on solving the fatigue problem.
2. When a member feels fatigued they should report it to their duty manager. If considering changing drivers to manage fatigue, this is the time to report it as it will allow early reporting and management. Ideally this should be followed up by an SRLS report even if it’s the last thing anyone wants to do when exhausted, but this paper trail allows the issue to be highlighted. It’s okay to report to a duty manager and then SRLS when next at work.
3. Contact the regional manager and highlight an unprecedented level of fatigue.
HACSU advocates for members to address this safety problem but it’s hard to do when AT dismisses anecdotes as irrelevant, which is why SRLSs are crucial, and fatigue events to SRLS about include micro-sleeping, blurred vision, inability to calculate doses or recall procedures, lack of hand eye co-ordination clinical events, cats-eye or line driving focus.
If a member has any of these fatigue-related issues the best mitigation is napping, and even better is a minimum 3-hour sleep.
We’re aware of extra expectations about presenting to work, often self-imposed, but if anyone has any COVID-19 symptoms they must exclude themselves from work and get tested immediately. But members should remember to also exclude themselves if too tired.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, please contact Chris via HACSUassist on 1300 880 032 or firstname.lastname@example.org