This question comes from a paramedic in western Australia:

I was wondering from a legal perspective, your interpretation of the emergency response practices within the mining fraternity of Western Australia… At this time, the local communities encompassing several mines are dependent on the mine emergency response to attend ambulance cases but there appears to be little legislative requirement endorsing this service or the service delivery practices. The responding staff predominately possess a Certificate IV Ambulance competency and there appears to be a reluctance to endorse ongoing annual requalification.

It seems from the managerial opinion, that the training reflected within the national standards framework does not require ongoing skills maintenance or recertification, subsequently staff who achieved this qualification several years earlier have had limited ongoing training.

Secondly, the responding staff were initially trained by and were afforded the associated legal protection of St John Ambulance (WA) several years earlier, however this no longer occurs, as all staff within emergency response are trained by an external privately owned training organisation which is the only source of their pre-hospital skills.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any CPG’s endorsing these practices or any ongoing research to ensure currency and compliance as once their five day course is completed they are deemed competent. Additionally, the poisons permit holder nominated in the medical standards allows the medications to be stored and dispensed for site related matters though the same drugs are being utilised in cases off site and I am unclear if this practice is keeping within the permit parameters.

I am aware of emergency legislation and the response of any service is better than no response but I am concerned as this is foreseeable, that we (mining industry) may be setting ourselves up for failure from a legislative compliance point of view.

In Western Australia, the question is ‘compliance with what?’ The Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995 (WA) rr 4.24-4.29 impose requirements on mines to have first aid personnel and a ‘a vehicle equipped to transport injured or sick persons is available at the mine at all times while persons are working at the mine’ but provides little detail on the training required. First aid personnel must be qualified in first aid and, so far as practicable, advanced first aid (regulation 4.26) but those terms or qualifications are not defined. There is nothing in the regulation about responding, or not responding, off the mine site.

There is no ambulance service legislation in Western Australia so there is no Ambulance Act to comply with. St John ambulance provides ambulance services under contract to the State of WA and is the ‘combat agency responsible for the emergency management activity of providing health services’ (Emergency Management Regulations 2006 (WA) r 27)) and for the provision of ‘pre-hospital care and casualty transport services'(WESTPLAN Health, December 2012, [1.11.12]) but there is no law to stop others assisting at a health emergency in the absence of St John or to stop others providing ambulance services.

I don’t know what is meant by ‘associated legal protection of St John Ambulance (WA)’ so I cannot comment on that.

As for whether or not allowing drugs, that are allowed to be used and stored on a mine, to be used off site complies with any permit, one would need to see the permit to see what it says.

In short the industry is not setting itself up ‘for failure from a legislative compliance point of view’ because there’s no legislation to comply with!

For a more detailed discussion on this issue, see an article that I’ve written with Ruth Townsend ‘Crossing the line – the law and ethics of going beyond the wire’ that is due to appear in the next issue of Response (the Journal of Paramedics Australasia).