A correspondent

… would be interested in some feedback regarding South Australian laws. I work for a private entity in remote SA which provides an emergency response service on private land We operate emergency ambulances with an exemption under sections 57, 58 & 62 of the Health Care Act. We also provide fire and rescue services however we do not have any exemption under the Fire and Emergency Services Act or any other legislation that I’m aware of. Our fire and rescue vehicles are registered as emergency vehicles because they comply with Motor Vehicle Regulations given they are principally used for the purpose of firefighting (or taking action in connection with an emergency), have red and blue flashing lights, sirens and appropriate response equipment. My question is specifically; Are we leaving ourselves exposed when responding in our fire and rescue vehicles on public roads in support of local state operated response services?

In South Australia an emergency vehicle is

… any vehicle driven by a person who is—

(a)         an emergency worker for the provision; and

(b)         driving the vehicle in the course of his or her duties as an emergency worker.

The important thing is the status of the driver as an ‘emergency worker’, not the status of the vehicle.    If they are registered as an ‘emergency vehicles’ then that has to be to allow warning devices to be fitted, but is not relevant to their use on public roads and an exemption from the road rules.

The definition of ‘emergency worker’ for SA is set out in the Road Traffic (Road Rules–Ancillary And Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SA) r 54.  An emergency worker is

  • a member ‘of an emergency services organisation within the meaning of the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005’ (r 54(1)(a)).

The emergency services organisations are the SA Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS); the Country Fire Service (SACFS) and the State Emergency Service (SASES) (See Fire And Emergency Services Act 2005 (SA) s 3) and I infer that my correspondent’s employees are not members of an emergency service organisation (but they might be).

Authorised officers are appointed by the State Coordinator (Emergency Management Act 2004 (SA) s 17).  I would infer that my correspondent’s employees are not authorised officers under the Emergency Management Act 2004.

  • persons engaged in the provision of emergency ambulance services under section 57(1) of the Health Care Act 2008 on behalf of—
    (i) SA Ambulance Service Inc; or
    (ii) St Johns Ambulance Australia South Australia Incorporated;

My correspondent says ‘We operate emergency ambulances with an exemption under sections 57, 58 & 62 of the Health Care Act’ but they ‘are a private entity in remote SA which provides an emergency response service on private land’ so I infer they are not doing so on behalf of SAAS or St Johns [sic] Ambulance SA.

  • any other persons engaged in the provision of emergency ambulance services under section 57(1) of the Health Care Act 2008 

Section 57(1) says

A person must not provide emergency ambulance services unless—

(a) the services are carried out by SAAS; or

(b) the services are provided by a person or a person of a class, or in circumstances, prescribed by regulation; or

(c) the services are provided under an exemption granted by the Minister under this Part.

My correspondent says they have an exemption under s 57(1) so when providing an ambulance service it’s an emergency vehicle but the question is about ‘responding in our fire and rescue vehicles on public roads in support of local state operated response services’ to which I infer that is fire and emergency services.

  • members of the Australian Federal Police or Australian Border Force; 
  • members of the armed forces of the Commonwealth engaged in police, fire fighting or ambulance duties or duties in connection with the urgent disposal of explosives or any emergency; 
  • employees of Airservices Australia engaged in fire fighting duties or duties in connection with any emergency. 

Clearly none of these apply to my correspondent.

Prima facie my correspondent’s vehicles (other than an ambulance operated in accordance with an exemption under s 57(1) of the Health Care Act 2008 (SA) is not an ‘emergency vehicle’ for the purposes of the Australian Road Rules as the driver is not an ‘emergency worker’.   But the minister or his or her delegate (Road Traffic (Road Rules–Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SA) r 6 and Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) ss 11 and 12) may grant exemptions and approvals. So if they have granted a relevant approval or exemption then they may be an ‘emergency worker’.   I can’t know what sort of approvals have been given under the road rules.