2010 Dispute over Police vehicles rolling over

In 2010, PANSW began receiving reports that Ford Ranger wagons fitted with the Varley prisoner pod, were rolling over at low speeds.

There had been at least 10 rollovers in 18 months. Additionally, the prisoner pods were preventing curtain airbags from functioning properly.

According to independent engineering reports secured by the Association, the vehicles became unstable due to the ‘Varley pod’ prisoner cage fitted on the back.

On 4 August 2010, the Association Executive passed a motion advising members to stop using Ford Ranger vehicles for frontline operational duties.

They recommended alternative vehicles be utilised. Any member facing disciplinary action would be supported by the Association.

Members adhered to the work bans, despite it proving contentious in some commands.

Thereafter, at a meeting of the NSW Police Vehicle Standards Committee on 6 August, the Association argued that the vehicles represented a major WHS risk.

The force, however, maintained that according to their expert advice, the vehicles could continue to be used.

Needless to say, the Association refused to downplay the risks and a formal dispute was lodged with the WorkCover Authority.

Conciliation in the Industrial Relations Commission began on 13 August 2010 before Justice Hayden. The Association sought an interim arrangement to minimise the use of these vehicles, which numbered around 250.

Justice Hayden issued a recommendation on 25 August 2010, stipulating strict conditions under which the vehicles could be used. The Ford Ranger/Varley module was not to engage in pursuits and only to be used as a last report. The NSW Police Force committed $1.2m to modify the suspension.

However, on 26 December the Association renewed calls to keep the wagons off the streets after three officers were injured in a vehicle rollover in Orange.

‘‘It is simply not good enough for police in 2010 to be provided with unsafe equipment that is unsuitable for what is already a dangerous profession,’’ Acting President, Pat Gooley

Whilst the fleet was being phased out, the Association demanded that the Ranger model only be used under the protection of a risk assessment.

This dispute was eventually finalised in March 2012.