SES allegedly endangering emergency services workers and the public

Victorian firefighters have alleged the conduct of volunteer State Emergency Service crews at road crashes is unprofessional and potentially dangerous.

29/07/2021 2:24:00 AM

Victorian firefighters allege unprofessional conduct of volunteer SES crews is putting the safety of emergency responders and the public at risk. The Victorian SES denies the claims, saying their volunteers are 'fully trained' and do an 'outstanding job'.

Victorian firefighters have alleged the conduct of volunteer State Emergency Service crews at road crashes is unprofessional and potentially dangerous.

Credit:Nine NewsTess Clark and her unborn baby Asher died in hospital after the family’s SUV was struck head-on when the driver of a ute is believed to have suffered a medical incident and swerved into oncoming traffic. Partner Shane Clark and their two other children Archie and Hunter survived the horror smash. The driver of the ute died two weeks later.

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There is no suggestion that any alleged mistakes or misconduct by emergency workers on the scene contributed in any way to the deaths. But firefighters have claimed that responders’ safety was potentially endangered when the SES triggered the airbag by cutting into the vehicle while personnel were still inside. Glass and debris fell on Ms Clark after SES failed to deploy a shield to protect her, they say.

AdvertisementIt was also alleged that an SES member was seen taking photos of the scene in the presence of the victims’ family. Firefighters claim the SES later apologised to members of the CFA after the breach in protocol was detected.Mr Clark toldThe Age

he had been concerned about a photograph taken from what appeared to be inside the scene and which he saw circulating on the internet in the wake of the crash.“There was an image of the scene – and I was there – taken from the ground. How did that image get to the media when it should have only been SES, paramedics, firefighters, police and witnesses, including me, on the ground?” he said.

“I have been wondering for six months where that photo came from.”LoadingThe SES has denied any of the alleged conduct occurred and said a review of the incident found “no significant issues” with the SES conduct and that no safety protocols were violated.

“No VICSES photos of the Pakenham victim were captured or exist. No apology was issued or required and VICSES strongly refutes any claims otherwise,” a spokesman said.“All VICSES road crash rescue responders are fully trained to national standards with all accredited units put through a robust capability assessment every three years to ensure high quality skill execution, as per the State Road Crash Rescue arrangements.”

FRV declined to comment. The union is also seeking to involve Emergency Management Victoria as the state’s umbrella organisation that authorised the current road crash rescue arrangements.“The Emergency Management Commissioner is responsible for the co-ordination of the activities of agencies in relation to emergency responses, including road crash rescue – and will continue to work with the Fair Work Commission as required,” a spokeswoman for Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

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UFU Victorian branch secretary Peter Marshall said the problem was a “sleeping giant” that had not been addressed for years despite the clear threat to worker and public safety.“There is no doubt that the same old rhetoric that this is a UFU takeover will be the expected response. Allowing this to continue will be more about trying to keep peace between the agencies – it will not be focused on what is the best outcome for the community or the person trapped in the car.”

The coroner is also conducting an investigation into the fatal crash in Pakenham South. Read more: The Age »

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