In this article, we are going to look at some of the policies, procedures, guidelines, and legal aspects of First Aid.
Things like, Duty of Care, ARC Guidelines, consent and other relevant policies and regulations.
It is important to know about these because they offer you protection from legal action if, and when, you provide First Aid.
And that’s a good thing… Right?
What is First Aid?
First Aid is the initial care you can give to a person who is injured or has fallen ill until an ambulance or other help arrives. Therefore, knowledge of First Aid is important for everyday activities and of course in the workplace.
Some of you may become responsible for the provision of First Aid in your workplace. All of you may have to provide First Aid to someone in the community.
To be effective and safe when providing First Aid to someone, you should be aware of these policies and procedures.
First Aid training in Australia is aligned with the guidelines provided by the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC).
According to the ARC, “the ARC Guidelines shall be resource documents for individuals and organisations that teach and practise resuscitation…”
This provides a standard starting point for First Aid training providers and all the training material at Life Saving First Aid is based on the ARC Guidelines. You can review the ARC Guidelines here – resus.org.au
Duty Of Care
As a First Aider or general member of the public, you are not legally required to help or aid another person.
However, If you do decide to provide First Aid to someone in the community then, as a First Aider, you have a Duty of Care.
A Duty of Care when providing First Aid means to provide care to an injured or ill person appropriate to the level of your First Aid training, skills, and limitations. This means acting in good faith, with reasonable care, and using available equipment and resources according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you can, you should try to prevent further harm to the casualty. Stay with them until the ambulance or medical personnel arrive.
By staying with them, you can monitor their condition and respond to any changes in their condition or the environment.
Conscious or unconscious, adult or child, you have a Duty of Care to show respectful behaviour towards the casualty regarding beliefs, culture and as a person. Also, to be kind and reassuring, providing comfort, dignity and, wherever possible, privacy.
You have a Duty of Care to yourself as well. It is important for your safety and the protection of your casualty, that you use Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) when you are providing First Aid. PPE is things like Gloves, Face Shields, Eye protection etc.
Speaking of protection, let’s have a look at the Good Samaritan Act/Law.
The Good Samaritan Act
Included in First Aid policies, procedures and Guidelines is the definition of a Good Samaritan.
“A Good Samaritan is a person who decides to act in good faith by assisting a person who is injured or at risk of being injured and not expecting payment or a reward for their efforts.
“A person who is acting in good faith in providing assistance to someone in need is protected from any personal liability in an emergency situation” under the Good Samaritan laws.
Whether you are a trained First Aider or not, the Good Samaritan Law applies.
Remember, as a First Aider you must provide care to an injured or ill person appropriate to the level of your First Aid training, skills and limitations. You should also act in their best interests.
At the time of writing this, no First Aider in Australia has faced a lawsuit and lost for providing first aid within their level of training.
Workplace Codes of Practice
If you are a designated workplace First Aider, important policies, procedures and guidelines you need to know about are the Work Health and Safety Act Codes of Practice for First Aid and your duty of care.
Codes of practice for First Aid provide practical guidance on how to achieve the standards of work health and safety required under the WHS Act and the Work Health and Safety Regulations (the WHS Regulations) and effective ways to identify and manage risks.
You will find the Codes of Practice on the Safe Work Australia website. They advise on how many First Aid kits your workplace requires, what the First Aid Kits should contain, First Aid training required, maintaining current certificates and so on.
For example, Appendix E of the Codes of Practice for First Aid is a list of the First Aid equipment you need to have in your workplace First Aid kit.
Next time you go to work, find your First Aid kit and check it out.
Familiarise yourself with its location and what it contains. Go to the Codes of Practice Appendix E. See if your First Aid Kit complies with the list of items that should be in it.
If it doesn’t, make a list of the missing items and get your manager or supervisor to organise replacements.
Included in this list, of course, are items of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
During the incident, you should wear PPE such as gloves, face shields, and safety glasses. Wash and sanitize your hands following the incident.
First Aid in the Workplace
As a workplace first aider, you have a Duty of Care to take the appropriate action and provide First Aid treatment to anyone who is ill or injured in your workplace, to the best of your ability. This includes employees and or visitors.
Your workplace should develop policies and procedures for first aid taking into account these legislations, regulations, and codes of practice. In the workplace, a first aider must know where these are located. They provide information for you regarding emergency plans, first aid and reporting incidents.
You will need to understand and adhere to the first aid policies, procedures and guidelines of your organisation.
After the incident, you will be required to complete a report of the incident and undertake a debrief.
Consent for First Aid
Remember, it is a legal requirement that you obtain consent from an injured or ill person, regardless of their age, ability, health, or mental status, before you assist them with First Aid.
In line with the policies, consent can be VERBAL, IMPLIED, or ASSUMED.
This simply means that the casualty verbally consents. For example, if your casualty has a broken arm and they Reply “Yes” when you asked, “ Can I help you? I’m trained in First Aid”. There is your consent.
Where a casualty may not be able to speak and conveys consent by body language or gestures. For instance, if your casualty was choking and unable to speak, and they nodded or physically indicated “Yes” when you asked, “Can I help you? I’m trained in First Aid,” this would imply consent.
It’s pretty obvious that if someone is unconscious, we can’t ask for their consent before we assist them with first aid. Don’t panic the law has you covered. For first aid you can assume your unconscious casualty has given their consent.
Consent from a minor
The parent or guardian must give their consent if the casualty is a minor
For emergency treatment or assisting with a wound or illness, a mature minor could give consent.
If they cannot give consent and there is no parent present, the doctrine of necessity would justify treatment that is reasonably necessary and in the child’s best interests.
Consent not given
You want to help someone. If they do not give consent. Call 000. Tell the operator what is happening and let them make a decision. They may send an Ambulance to assist.
First Aid Certificate currency
So you can renew your certificate before it expires, know the expiry date.
Your CPR Certificate will expire after 12 months, and your First Aid certificate after 3 years from the issue date. More info about Certificates here (How long does a First Aid certificate last? – Blog article)
So just to Recap:
- First Aid policies, procedures and guidelines include: The ARC guidelines relevant to the provision of first aid, first aid guidelines from Australian national peak clinical bodies and Worksafe Codes of Practice.
- Remember to use PPE, including resuscitation barrier devices, to protect yourself, and get consent where possible.
- And, don’t forget there may be a potential need for stress management techniques and support following an incident
Well, that’s that. Until next time… Stay safe.