Safety and equipment within the ambulance

Unfortunately, the design of ambulances has historically not always taken crew and patient safety into consideration.

Within the updated National EMS Regulations that have now been published for public comment, one of the requirements is that all equipment within the ambulance must either be strapped down or stored within a cabinet that can be securely closed so that the equipment cannot be thrown around within the ambulance in the event of harsh cornering, heavy braking, or a dreaded accident.

It needs to be emphasised that all equipment needs to be properly secured within the ambulance. Typically, larger pieces of equipment like defibrillators and suction units are some of the few equipment items that have been secured within an ambulance. Items like portable oxygen cylinders and fire extinguishers can however be just as dangerous and lead to serious injury or death in the event of an ambulance accident.

Simply standing a portable oxygen cylinder into a round bracket, or clipping a fire extinguisher into a plastic bracket is not enough. It is of vital importance that these items are completely secured. They should not be able to move in any direction, and should preferably be stored within a solid cabinet or a bunk so that they do not pose any risk to the crew or patients.

In addition to what has been noted above we expect the new regulations to ensure that absolutely no equipment can move freely within the ambulance. Even items such as oxygen masks, IV solution bags, bag valve mask resuscitators, and splints can cause injury under extreme circumstances. As a result, all storage compartments within the ambulance will need to be contained. In other words, every compartment will need to have some type of door that will keep the contents fully enclosed and secured. Your jump bag should either be stored within a closed cabinet, within a bunk, or securely strapped down within the vehicle.

It is important that the ambulance industry in South Africa moves away from the belief that it is acceptable to have pieces of equipment lying loose within the ambulance, resting on a shelf, or stored within an open compartment. Our industry needs to accept that we are behind international standards in this regard and start understanding that it is of vital importance that we move develop and move forward as quickly as possible to rectify that.