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 work place then you owe a Duty of Care to your co-workers, if you are the career of minors then you owe a Duty of Care to those minors. The first aider should have knowledge acquired in formal first aid training.
If there is no Duty of Care owed and 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. No Good Samaritan has been successfully sued for acting in a reasonable and responsible manner when rendering first aid.
A person that does have a Duty of Care to others when providing emergency first aid assistance must provide care that is:
- 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 should continue to provide first aid 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.
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 emergency 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. All rules and regulation regarding first aid are covered in first aid training.
For negligence of a first aider to be established a court must find:
- A Duty of Care existed between the first aider and the casualty.
- The first aider failed to exercise reasonable care and attention in applying emergency first aid.
- The casualty suffered additional damage.
- The additional damage resulted from the actions of the first aider’s standard of care.
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 emergency 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:
- Use ink and not pencil.
- Amend any errors by drawing a single line through the error and initialing.
- Never use correction fluid/tape to correct mistakes.
- Include date and time of incident.
- Brief personal details – name, address, date of birth.
- History of illness or injury.
- Observations – signs, symptoms, vital signs.
- All notes should be legible.
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.