Should I have a Defibrillator on my premises?
With the increase in publicly available AEDs (Automated External Defibrillator) together with a heightened public awareness of employers responsibility to ensure adequate First Aid provision, it is often asked whether an AED should be made available at a business premises?
The following information is based on "Responsibility to Provide an AED at a Public Place", page 16 the UK Resuscitation Council Document "The Legal Status of Those Who Attempt Resuscitation"
In the years since their introduction, the use of AEDs by lay persons has proved so successful that fears have been expressed a business may be found negligent should a member of the public suffer a cardiac arrest while on the premises because they did not provide an AED. So far there have been no cases in the UK brought against those who have not equipped themselves with AEDs.
The problem was highlighted when two airline companies were successfully sued in the USA because an AED was not available to treat passengers who suffered cardiac arrests during a flight.
There is currently no legislation in the UK which obliges certain businesses or premises to provide an AED but under English law, there can be liability in negligence for failing to take appropriate safety precautions on your premises.
For further information in assessing the requirements of First Aid provision, read this guide to First Aid Needs Assessments.
Whether precautions are appropriate will depend on balancing the cost and benefit of the precaution. When considering the benefit, one must consider:
- the likelihood of harm
- the severity of the potential harm
- the vulnerability of potential victims that the Defendant knew or should have known about.
In some premises the hazards are inherent and it can be seen, by analogy, that the time might come here when certain types of premises would be considered defective if they were not equipped with AEDs.
In relation to AEDs,
- The likelihood of harm will depend on:
- The type of people who use the facility
- How likely they are to have a cardiac arrest
- The severity of potential harm is clearly very high
- The vulnerability of potential victims will very much depend on the circumstances and the type of people attending the defendants facility.
Furthermore, where an AED is provided in a workplace, and used by a member of staff, it becomes work equipment to which the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 apply. Failure to maintain the equipment and to train persons in its use would be a breach of the 1998 Regulations by the employer.
To this end, if you are providing an AED on your premises that alone does not absolve you of your Health & Safety obligations. Indeed, they are now extended to include (but not limited to):
- The training of staff for the safe use of the AED; given that AEDs are designed to be used without instruction or training, training is not essential but is encouraged to provide employees with familiarisation with the equipment to minimise time between collapse and the first shock
- The maintenance and periodical calibration of the device.
- Regular stock check of supplies.
It may be possible to use this basis of liability to found a claim against an organisation that did not equip itself with AEDs. For any such claim to succeed, it may well have to be shown, at the least, either:
- that the people who generally used the organisation's premises were at a particular risk of cardiac arrest (i.e. that there was a fairly high risk of potential harm), or
- that it was common practice amongst such organisations to have an AED available.
If we use the example of a Gym, where cardiac arrests have been reported with some frequency, many such facilities (but not all) have already equipped themselves with AEDs and lives have been saved. Again, whilst no legislation exists which enforces the provision of AEDs, the precedent being set by other Gyms would make it difficult to for another Gym to justify why they did not provide one.
If it is decided that the provision of an AED at your premises is appropriate it is also worth knowing that whilst you have an obligation to ensure that your staff are appropriately trained in its use, an AED should be made available to any member of the public, without training, if they are "willing and able" to use it.
The simplicity of their use as well as their design of safe-use mean that AED training for members of the public is encouraged but not essential.