Following my earlier post – Council Lifesavers and Accreditation under the State Emergency And Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW) (January 7, 2017) a commentator said ‘a competency course is required for anyone who drives a vehicle classed as an emergency vehicle. This certification is required by police, ambulance and fire brigades.’ This question specifically deals with that issue. This correspondent says:
I’m writing to you this afternoon in relation to a question on the requirement for state government organisations to provide adequate training in emergency driving procedures.
Currently in NSW the only organisation that has a formal driver training program is the NSW Police Force.
I am an emergency vehicle driver for …[an emergency service]. We have constantly asked for advanced driver training in relation to driving under lights and sirens but to-date have been ignored.
There is no specific obligation to provide driving training in emergency procedures that is there is no special licence that requires training and the passing of a relevant competency test. In other words, a licence to drive an emergency vehicle does not exist like a licence to drive a heavy vehicle (see Learning to Drive a Heavy Vehicle in NSW (November 2, 2016)).
An obligation to provide driver training can be implied in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW). That Act requires a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (the ‘PCBU’) to undertake a risk assessment and there is no doubt driving a vehicle under emergency conditions is a high risk activity.
The primary duty of the PCBU is to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of’ workers and those affected by the business or undertaking (s 19(1)). One of the things the PCBU is to do is to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable … the provision of any … training, [or] instruction … that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking’ (s 19(3)(f)).
If the employees identify that emergency driving gives rise to risks to their health and safety, and also risks to others, then it is appropriate to trigger the consultation mechanisms in the WHS Act, including raising matters with Health and Safety Representatives (ss 50-74), Health and Safety Committees (ss 75-79) or relevant trade unions (ss 116-151) to encourage the PCBU to consider and if necessary introduce relevant training or instruction.