Controversy over call to arm ambulance workers with capsicum spray

A call for ambulance workers to be allowed to use capsicum spray to protect them against violent and aggressive patients has evoked quite a mixed response across Australia.

The call for Queensland ambulance staff to be given approval to use the spray comes from the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMWU) who say there are as many as three assaults on paramedics every month.

While legislation is being considered in the State's Parliament as to whether assaults on paramedics should be dealt with in the same manner as assaults on police, LHMWU spokesman Jason Dutton says paramedics carry no protective equipment and the spray will help paramedics defend themselves.

Mr Dutton says one officer was assaulted by being kicked in the back and punched several times around the head while others were recently facing threats on their lives and he believes a watershed has been reached and paramedics need help in defending themselves.

Mr Dutton says situations sometimes escalate and ambulance officers are themselves trapped and become the punching bag of some people and the demand is about arming them with an appropriate piece of equipment that will allow them to get out of such a situation and look after their own safety.

However ambulance officers in the Northern Territory say they would not use capsicum spray to defend themselves even if the demand succeeds, as there is no need for it in the Territory at the moment despite concerns about the high number of assaults on ambulance workers.

The NT secretary of the LHMWU says the situation will be monitored but they believe the responsibility of the ambulance officer should be to diffuse the situation.

That view is supported by Queensland's Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts who says arming ambulance officers with capsicum spray could make the situation worse and is inappropriate.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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