Saturday, May 07, 2005

Violence at Work

There's a poster pinned to the noticeboard in the foyer of the Ambulance Academy claiming that a member of an ambulance crew is assaulted every day. I was incredulous when I read this. Imagine. Every day. It doesn't say who he is but he must be very irritating and a definite liability to work with. Some people, I suppose, just attract trouble. Stan Tablets, for instance, has been involved in countless violent incidents although, come to think of it, I've never heard of anyone assaulting him.

To combat the possible consequences of this perceived high level of violence against their employees, some ambulance services have launched a three-pronged bureaucratic attack to pre-empt potentially costly litigation from members of staff who might claim they have been put in danger without adequate protection.

Firstly, every man is issued with a field telephone that can be used to call for assistance during an attack. Secondly, a short bullet-proof waistcoat is provided to deter armed assailants from stabbing or shooting an ambulanceman's upper torso. And thirdly, each man will undergo a rigorous and comprehensive one-day training course conducted by the Special Air Service to learn various techniques of physical self-defence, psychological conflict management strategies and the rudiments of salsa. Armed with these skills and equipment, an ambulanceman will do all he can to avoid being assaulted, knowing his chances of receiving any financial compensation have been quite considerably diminished.

The Clapham Ambulance, a slave to neither fashion nor political expediency, has a totally different approach to violence, which it doesn't actually view as a problem in the first place. For a start, it knows that its ancient and paternalistic traditions imbue the men with an old fashioned sense of loyalty and it’s inconceivable that they would ever consider suing their Service. It also reckons that most of the men are quite capable of taking care of themselves and provides them with a wide-ranging arsenal of weapons to do just that, the traditional favourite being the D-size oxygen cylinder. The latest cylinders even come with a handle to allow them to be used with one hand, leaving the other free to jab with a drip stand.

Current research suggests that this innovation is proving most useful to ambulance staff, unless, of course, you have hands like Stan Tablets, who doesn't need a handle and wields a D-size like a Dunlop Maxply; it is a fearsome sight to behold. When Stan says, "I think this young tearaway might benefit from a little oxygen therapy, Bert," you can be sure it isn't an oxygen mask he's about to apply to the bridge of the lad's nose.

Figures for the last fiscal year show that assaults resulting in injury to men of the Clapham Ambulance remain at zero.