Legal Considerations

Legal Considerations

Duty of Care

There is no legal obligation to assist an ill or injured person in the case of an emergency unless a “Duty of Care” has already been established. Duty of Care is the legal relationship owed by one individual or organisation to another. If you are the first aider in your workplace then you owe a Duty of Care to your co-workers. All adults have a “duty of care” to young people if the parent or legal guardian is not present. If there is no Duty of Care owed and if you provide first aid assistance you are considered to be a “Good Samaritan”. First aiders should not be concerned or delay giving assistance for fear of litigation.
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When providing emergency assistance first aiders must provide care that is:
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Prudent and reasonable in the circumstances.

In the best interests of the casualty.

Based on skills and knowledge acquired in formal first aid training.

Unlikely to make the casualty’s condition worse.

Once you commence first aid treatment you have taken on a Duty of Care and you must continue until:

Someone with more qualifications arrives to help e.g. ambulance personnel, medical professional.

The casualty no longer requires treatment.

You are no longer physically capable of providing first aid.

The scene becomes unsafe.


Consent

Before providing first aid to a casualty you must obtain their consent. If the casualty is unconscious or is unable to give consent due to their injuries then consent is assumed and you should commence first aid treatment. If the casualty is conscious and appears to be in sound mind then they have the right to refuse your offer of assistance and any first aid treatment.

If the casualty is less than 18 years of age consent should be obtained from a parent or guardian. However, if no parent or guardian is present then consent is assumed and you can commence first aid treatment.

Always remember that a casualty’s consent only extends to their immediate illness or injury and you should not attempt to treat any condition beyond your knowledge of first aid.

Recording

A first aider should always make notes or fill out a first aid report on all events of an incident no matter how minor the incident or first aid provided. This will help them to remember the incident at a future time if required. If you are a first aider in a workplace your reporting obligations are greater under your State or Territories Occupational Health and Safety legislation. Any notes or reports can be used in a court of law. Ensure all documentation is accurate and factual, based on observations and not opinion.

General guidelines for first aiders completing a report for a first aid incident include:
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Use ink and not pencil.
Amend any errors by drawing a single line through the error and initialling.
Never use correction fluid/tape to correct mistakes.
Date and time of the incident.
Brief personal details – name, address, date of birth.
 History of illness or injury.
Observations – signs, symptoms, vital signs.
All notes should be legible.
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Privacy and Confidentiality

All personal information regarding a casualty is considered to be confidential, including details of the illness or injury, treatment and medical history. In a workplace environment disclosure of personal information without the individual’s prior consent is unethical and in many cases illegal. The details of the incident can be shared with others if there has been consent provided from the casualty. 


First Aid in the Workplace

Occupational Health and Safety requirements in the provision of first aid are guided by the First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice (2021) which provides practical advice to employers and employees. It covers first aid personnel, first aid kits, first aid rooms, first aid signs, accident response plans, risk management and accident response plans. All States and Territories within Australia are required to follow their relevant legislation.
It is the responsibility of employers to have procedures in place to deal with major and minor accidents or incidents in the workplace. It is the employees’ responsibility to follow these procedures.

Risk Assessment

Australian Standard ISO 31000:2018 – Risk Management

Risk management is recognised as an integral part of good management practice. It is an interactive process consisting of steps, which, when undertaken in sequence, enable continual improvement in decision making. Risk management is as much about identifying opportunities as avoiding or mitigating losses. The risk management process can be used to decide what first aid equipment, facilities and people are needed in a workplace to respond to illness or injury, including the risk of exposure to biological hazards, blood and body substances. There are five basic steps in the risk management process.
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 Employers and self-employed people should consider the following steps:
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Identify the hazards that may cause an injury or illness.

Assess the risk, type and extent of work injuries and work caused illnesses that may occur.

Decide on the appropriate first aid equipment, facilities, services to address the injuries or illnesses:

    • a workplace with a large physical area may need first aid kits to be available in more than one location.
    • a workplace that is some distance from medical facilities and/or has access problems may need people with advanced first aid training.

Implement the chosen first aid equipment,  facilities and services to effectively manage the injuries and illnesses.

Monitor and review first aid equipment, facilities and services to ensure they continue to meet requirements.