Body Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot
In the 10 years from July, 2011 to June, 2021 NSW Ambulance (NSWA) staff reported being faced with over 3,400 incidents of abuse, aggression or violence while providing care and treatment to the people of NSW. This equates to an increase of over 80% across the decade.
The NSWA Body Worn Camera (BWC) Project launched in 2019 after a number of wide-ranging reviews into violence against paramedics and other Emergency Services personnel were conducted. The aim of the BWC project is to mitigate incidents of workplace violence through;
- influencing behaviours of aggressive people through the presence, knowledge and use of BWCs,
- enabling an improved review of reported incidents of aggression and violence towards NSWA staff, and
- providing evidence to NSW Police Force to assist their investigation into offending against NSWA staff.
In 2019 the NSW Surveillance Devices Act (2007) was amended to allow NSWA paramedics to record audio and video, under certain circumstances, without asking for another person’s permission to do so. Paramedics may record a scene when they believe there is a significant risk of harm to themselves, their patient/s, or any other person on scene.
The body worn camera doesn’t record the paramedic’s entire shift nor every interaction they have with their patients and other people. The paramedic wearing the BWC will decide when or if to record a scene (once they’ve identified a significant risk of harm) and when to stop recording.
When a paramedic chooses to start recording, they should tell those in the immediate vicinity the camera is recording. This provides an aggressive person an opportunity to deescalate their behaviour or language. If the paramedic believes telling the aggressive person they have commenced recording would increase the likelihood of aggression or violence, they may avoid doing so. The BWC is not used to capture the clinical treatment or care of a patient, only to mitigate or provide evidence of aggression and violence.
In November, 2019 the NSWA BWC trial commenced at Hamilton Ambulance Station, Liverpool Station and the Sydney Ambulance Centre. Phase 2 of the trial involves expansion to three new sites, Artarmon Station, Northmead Station and Wagga Wagga Ambulance Station commencing in December, 2022. The BWC trial is programmed to conclude in November, 2023 when the amendment to the legislation reaches a ‘sun set’ date.
Why is NSW Ambulance using Body Worn Cameras?
NSW Ambulance Paramedics are facing regular abuse, verbal threats and physical assault whilst performing their duties. Currently 10 Paramedics are, on average, assaulted every week with about half of those being physical assaults. NSW Ambulance will continue to roll-out and maintain initiatives to keep its workforce safe from occupational violence. Body Worn Cameras are the latest of these initiatives being introduced to protect our employees.
Whilst typically used by Police Forces around the globe to enhance the collection of evidence, Paramedics will be using the technology to deter would-be perpetrators of occupational violence and collect evidence against individuals who commit these crimes. Footage that captures individuals abusing, threatening or physically assaulting Paramedics will be given to NSW Police for the purposes of prosecution.
Where is the pilot program taking place and for how long?
Starting in late November NSW Ambulance will begin a pilot program using Paramedic Body Worn Cameras (BWC) in the Sydney CBD, South West and New England Regions. The pilot will last for 12 months and involve hundreds of Paramedics.
The wearing of the Body Worn Camera will be overt. A green light at the top of the camera indicates the camera is ready to record. When the camera is actively recording the light turns red and several quick beeps can be heard at the commencement of the recording.
When will a recording be taken?
Paramedics will only be using the cameras and actively recording incidents if they feel threatened or believe they could come under harm. The footage will not be used to capture health information or to assist in medical treatment.
Will I know I'm being filmed?
Paramedics will announce that they have activated their Body Worn Camera device unless they feel that they may come under more harm or abuse by doing so. The Body Worn Camera is designed to act as a deterrent not just as a tool to capture evidence. A solid red light at the top of the device indicates it is actively recording. You have the right to ask the Paramedic at any time if they are recording on the device.
Who can see the footage?
There are significant limitations within the NSW Ambulance organisation as to who has access to the footage and why. Predominantly footage will be used for criminal prosecution, internal audit purposes and research associated with the pilot
There are significant legal and privacy obligations associated with the use of Body Worn Cameras by Paramedics. To ensure Paramedics are using the technology appropriately an internal review group will meet regularly to view a sample of footage. All footage is considered confidential where it contains health information, Patient information and details are removed, where practicable, prior to viewing.
Can I access footage I’m captured in?
Anyone wishing to access footage will be required to make a formal access application to NSWA under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA) using the GIPA Access Application Form. Information about making a GIPA application can be found on the Information and Privacy Commission Website.
As a result of increasing reports of violence against Paramedics whilst on duty, NSW Ambulance is trialling the use of Paramedic Body Worn Cameras (BWCs).
Legislation has recently been introduced authorising Paramedics on duty to use a BWC to record images or sounds during the performance of their duties.
Through the overt use of BWC's it is the intention of NSW Ambulance to:
- Reduce violence towards Paramedics
- Deter persons from engaging in anti-social behaviour
- Modify violent or anti-social behaviour towards Paramedics in the longer term
- Reduce complaints against Paramedics
NSW Ambulance Paramedics may collect personal and/or health information from patients/members of the public on a BWC during the routine conduct of their duties. It is not intended that cameras will be left on continuously, rather they will be utilised to capture specific incidents, where Paramedics safety may be under threat or violence or anti-social behaviour towards Paramedics has been detected. Paramedics’ use of BWC’s will be proportionate to the risk of violence present. Wherever possible persons not directly involved in incidents will not be recorded.
All collected/recorded information will be stored on a secure server. Only persons who have been authorised to do so will be able to access this information. Images may be provided to the NSW Police Force for law enforcement purposes in certain circumstances where an incident has occurred. Your information will not be given to any other person or agency without your permission or unless required by law.
Comments and complaints
Any complaints regarding the use of BWCs should be directed to Occupational Violence Incident Review Group (OVIRG) who will investigate any allegations and take appropriate action. The OVIRG can be contacted insert email address
Access to Information recorded on Body Worn Cameras
All requests for access to recorded material, other than by authorised representatives of NSW Ambulance must be made to NSW Ambulance by means of an Access Application pursuant to the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA). Access Applications will be determined by authorised NSW Ambulance officers in accordance with the provisions of that Act. Information about making a GIPA application can be found on the Information and Privacy Commission Website.