Emergency vehicles must have specific characteristics: they must be functional, easy to use, equipped with all the devices necessary to best assist the patient. There is one aspect that is not always taken into due consideration: they must scrupulously comply with the safety rules for construction, use and maintenance, have adequate test certification and crash test because we must not forget that also ambulances are rescue vehicles that can be involved in road accidents.
Let’s take the data available for Italy, in 2017 there were 159 road accidents involving emergency vehicles with 110 injuries and 10 deaths. Compliance with the legal criteria for the construction and fitting of vehicles used for people transport and rescue can make the difference between life and death.
Patient safety during medical transport is the subject of a specific Recommendation of the Ministry of Health since 2010: a directive which categorizes the different types of transport and identifies the actions to avoid death or harm to the patient during transport, including the suitability of equipment and devices.
Legal requirements in Italy
The design and equipment of emergency vehicles in Italy are governed by two specific “harmonized” technical standards at a European level:
- UNI 1789 for ambulances and rescue vehicles.
- UNI 1865 for the devices and equipment for medical transport, like the stretcher and stretcher-support.
UNI 1789 settles down the types of ambulances and their equipment according to the intended use, while UNI 1865 describes transport equipment and how it must be designed and configured for the safety of the patient and to reduce the effort of the operators. In this context, tests have considerable importance, because they allow to scientifically establish the compliance of the equipment with the safety standards.
Crash tests on ambulances, the example of the USA
In recent years, the ambulance tests have also become stricter in the United States: more and more bodies, government companies, manufacturers are taking care of this aspect. In the USA, the collaboration between NIOSH (National Institution for Safety at Work), SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and some manufacturers is active in order to create protocols for the implementation of crash tests. Protocols concerning the resistance to impacts against other vehicles, the protection of operators and the patient. On the one hand we can rejoice at this widespread sensitivity, but on the other hand we do remember that safety on emergency vehicles also and above all depends on the devices and equipment inside them, first of all the stretcher-support.
Crash test and certifications in Italy
Who certifies the ambulance and equipment? In the case of an ambulance, it is the bodybuilder who certifies the safety and compliance with the regulations. In the case of UNI 1865 and therefore of the equipment, the manufacturer provides approvals and certifications that should be certified with checks and tests. In particular, the legislation requires each piece of equipment to be tested 10g, i.e. capable of withstanding stresses equal to 10 times its weight at a speed of 36Km per hour. In the case of stretchers and stretcher supports, the test also allows to evaluate their non deformability, the lack of sharp edges in case of accidents and the correct retention of the patient.
A culture of testing and crash testing is an important step towards equipment and devices that are fully compliant with the European regulations. This is the only way to guarantee that the patient’s right to safe transport is respected. On the other hand, even Bodies and operators should demand the most rigid compliance with the law, also to protect their own professionalism: untested or non-approved equipment can make operators responsible for accidents and put insurance coverage at risk.
Stem commitment to safety
Stem commitment to safety
- Internal testing
- Dynamic crash tests at 10g and 20g by certified bodies
- Machinery Directive 2006/42 / EC certification of the European Parliament and the Council
- Approval of motor vehicles and trailers 70/156 / EEC
- European certification EN 1865-5 + Annex B (characteristics of the stretcher supports and safety of the patient and operators)
- European Certification EN 1789 (safety of ambulances and their equipment)
- Certification Directive 2006/28 / EC Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)