Keeps Your Hands Off Our Ambos!

Ambulance Tasmania

Keeps Your Hands Off Our Ambos!

Keep your hands off our ambos! poster I can't fight for your mate's life if I'm fighting for mine

Our salaried paramedics and volunteer ambulance officers are the 'front line' of health care in Tasmania. Every call they attend places them in unknown and sometimes dangerous situations.

While an ambo's primary role is to look after their patient, too often they also have to content with abusive, aggressive and sometime violent bystanders and family members whose challenging behaviours are fueled by anxiety, bravado or intoxication.

Do people really act aggressively or violently towards ambos?

Yes, paramedics and volunteer ambulance officers frequently face:

  • being spat on
  • verbal abuse
  • threats of violence
  • aggressive behaviour (sometimes with a weapon)
  • physical assault (including kicks, bites and punches).

We know aggressive and violent behaviour towards our staff is on the increase, as it is in mainland states. We also know a significant amount of challenging behaviour is encountered at licensed venues like pubs and clubs and is the result of drug or alcohol intoxication. Challenging behaviour for our ambos also commonly occurs in the home as a result of pre-loading alcohol intoxication.

What is the impact on our ambos?

Everyone deserves to be safe at work and a serious injury can have devastating effects ... not just for the injured worker but also for their colleagues, family and friends. Even when workplace injuries are only temporary, the loss of confidence may affect the worker long after the physical symptoms have healed.

Even 'less serious' challenging behaviours, such as verbal abuse and threats of violence, can have a cumulative effect. Innuendo, derogatory or offensive remarks, insults, overt displays of aggression, and threats of violence frequently go unreported or are simply tolerated as 'part of the job'.  Over time, these  'less serious' incidents contribute to workplace stress, low morale and diminished self-worth.

What are the possible consequences for someone who abuses or assaults an ambo?

Legal consequences

Offences include assault, sexual assault, property damage, disorderly or offensive behaviour.

But being arrested or charged can be just the start of your problems.

  • You may have to spend time in jail or you might have to do community service. Under s.35 of the Police Offences Act, common assault and aggravated assault are punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months and two years respectively; maximum penalties are significantly higher if charges are laid under s.184 of the Criminal Code. Under s.39B of the Ambulance Service Act it is an offence to resist, impede, obstruct or assault an ambulance officer or use threatening, abusive or insulting language, with maximum penalties of 3 months in prison.
  • Many industries won't employ someone with a criminal history. You may lose your current employment because of the blot on your record or because you need to take time off work for court appearances.
  • Legal problems can also result in relationship break-ups and friction between family members.
  • You may not be allowed to travel to countries like the US if you have a criminal conviction.

Social consequences

What people think about us affects how we feel about ourselves. A shameful incident that goes against social norms such as assaulting an ambo can result in ridicule, social ostracism and other forms of bullying. It can affect personal relationships, you may lose friends and the respect of your family because of what you did.

What can I do to support ambos?

Before you go out, decide with your mates to look out for each other, especially if something goes wrong.

Make it socially unacceptable for any of your mates to threaten or assault an ambo if one of you, or anyone else, gets hurt or sick.

Talk with younger members of your family to educate them about the important role ambos play and how we should always treat ambos with respect.

What can I do if I am out at night and someone gets hurt?

If you are out with your friends and someone needs and ambulance, encourage everyone to stand back and let the ambos do their job.

If you notice someone is getting agitated, try talking to them calmly and quietly. In a firm and authoritative voice, direct them to move away from the scene.  Don't try and shout over someone who is yelling; wait for them to take a breath. Don't try and explain things ... just stick to your "let's move away ... let the ambos do their job" mantra.

Above all, trust your instincts and stay safe. If your efforts to calm someone down aren't working, you should move away yourself.

Further information

Further information on challenging behaviour can be found using the following links:

Keep your hands off our Ambos!

I can't fight for your mate's life if I'm fighting for mine.

If you ever threaten or interfere with an ambo, you're stopping them from doing their job ... and that could cost someone their life.

Watch on YouTube (opens in a new tab/window)

Ambulance Tasmania acknowledges the assistance from SA Health with the "Keep Your Hands Off Our Ambos!" campaign.  All materials are used with permission from SA Health.