Following my discussion on ‘marine’ and ‘land’ rescue in NSW, another correspondent wrote and said:

While you are looking at the SRB.

Can you find a definition for Vertical Rescue.

I believe the Training Standard for Emergency Services should be to the level of SISOVTR402A Perform complex vertical rescues.

At the moment Emergency Services across the State performing Vertical Rescue under the General Land Accreditation and Rope mobility and PUASAR032A Undertake vertical rescue which is a fairly low competency for an emergency incident.

A true clear definition of Vertical Rescue is required from the SRB to protect our Emergency Services and Volunteers to ensure they are adequately trained to perform their duty in stressful situations.

The State Rescue Board maintains a vertical rescue directive (http://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/media/509.pdf).  That directive doesn’t define vertical rescue but it does set out the minimum training requirements which include PUASAR004B Undertake Vertical Rescue; that’s a different number (ie different to ‘PUASAR032A Undertake vertical rescue’ referred to in the original question) so it may be that the competencies have been redefined and renumbered since the directive was issued in May 2008.

The critical thing about the directive is that it says:

4.   In developing and maintaining vertical rescue capability, rescue units and agencies are to adopt a risk management approach. Each unit’s training, vehicles, equipment and procedures are to be sufficient and appropriate to address the risks that exist in the unit’s area of operation.

5.   It is each agency’s responsibility to ensure that the training, vehicles, equipment and procedures are sufficient and appropriate for the local risks. …

8.   Units and agencies are able to pursue further, more advanced training to address any additional risks or agency-specific operational requirements.

A risk management approach requires unit leaders to consider the tasks they have to do, the potential risks to staff and patients and whether or not further, enhanced training is warranted.  The listed training is the minimum so a unit or an agency could insist on higher level trainging if that was warranted by the risks they face.

It may be appropriate for emergency services, or at least some, to have the higher level of training but that is a matter for each agency to assess.  It should be noted that under modern Work Health and Safety Laws, agencies have to take action to reduce risk to workers, including volunteers.  This is consistent with the risk management approach.  The minimum training may well be PUASAR004B Undertake Vertical Rescue but if there are risks, that could be reasonably reduced by the higher level training, there may be an obligation to require that training.  What is important is for workers, including volunteers, to raise with their agency these issues if they believe that they are inadequately trained for the tasks they are to perform and if there is reasonably available superior training that would ameliorate any identified risks.

Michael Eburn
20 June 2012.