Hawke's Bay ambulance staff are undertaking personal protection training to stay safe in an increasingly volatile workplace.
Hawke's Bay St John staff suffered 27 accidents in the past financial year - including 10 while undertaking manual handling activities, six while caught on equipment, two falls/trips/slips and three when struck - by, for instance, something falling off a shelf. Two officers were assaulted while on duty.
St John Hawke's Bay district operations manager Stephen Smith said while St John worked to mitigate risks, dangers were ever present from intoxicated people who saw a uniform rather than a person there to help them.
Violent situations could often erupt without warning when staff were unable to meet some people's expectations or when family members were grieving for a loved one.
"Dealing with people who are directly under the influence of alcohol or drugs often results in patients who are unpredictable and at times irrational."
Other dangers included people with mental health issues and the dangers from infection and viruses - especially over winter months.
St John staff received personal safety and protection training and worked with police to ensure staff were protected while they carried out their duties at the scene of incidents, he said.
"St John has a zero tolerance to violence against its members."
Nationally, St John Ambulance staff were involved in 570 accidents in the last financial year - 21 of which were classified as "serious harm".
There were 34 reported assaults on ambulance staff during the same period.
Many of those injured had been moving heavy patients, or tripped and fell on the job.
However, other reported accidents included staff suffering exposure to chemicals and "biological" accidents caused by officers coming into contact with blood and other body fluids.
St John spokeswoman Sarah Martin said the last ambulance officer killed in the line of duty was a volunteer officer who died in a car accident on the way to an incident.
Meanwhile, ambulance staff in Northland are considering the need for police escorts after an ambulance and crew were pelted with rocks by "low-lifes" last Thursday.
Northland St John boss Tony Devanney said the ambulance was returning to Kerikeri when it had to stop in Moerewa because large rocks and debris had been placed on the road. Officers who left the vehicle to clear the debris came under fire from "idiots" throwing rocks.
In the line of fire
27 accidents in Hawke's Bay in the past financial year, 27 in 2010/11, 29 in 2009/10.
Two assaults in Hawke's Bay in the past financial year, two in 2010/11, one in 2009/10.
570 accidents nationally in the 2011/12 financial year, 533 in 2010/11, 517 in 2009/10.
34 assaults in 2011/12, 31 in 2010/11, 56 in 2009/10.
ACC claims for the past three financial years:
2011: 188 claims, 1883 days off work, total cost: $590,774
2010: 209 claims, 2213 days off work, total cost: $533,022
2009: 234 claims, 898 days off work, total cost: $352,697
Total cost of ambulance injuries for past three financial years: $1,476,493