Campaign for defibrillators in schools

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A group of firefighters have launched a campaign for pupils and school staff to be protected by the potentially life-saving use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools.

The firefighters at Lee Green fire station in London were inspired to start the Sweet Heart campaign for defibrillators after national statistics showed that 270 children die each year from cardiac arrest at schools in the UK.

The Sweet Heart campaign, supported by The Firefighter Foundation, is now aiming to increase awareness of the life-saving benefits of defibrillators and advise schools on how they can raise funds to buy one and access training to use them.

Commenting on the issue, Kevin Quinn, Watch Manager at Lee Green fire station, said, “All of London Fire Brigade’s fire engines are equipped with defibrillators so we see first-hand what a difference they can make.”

He added, “Currently there is no legal requirement for defibrillators to be kept in schools but if they are used within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest they can give people a 70% chance of survival. There is no question that the number of deaths from cardiac arrest could be dramatically reduced if all schools were defibrillator protected and that is what we want to see.”

Training staff to use defibrillators in the school

If you are thinking about installing an AED in your premises you need to know your responsibilities and liabilities in relation to the training of employees in the use of an AED.

AEDs are sophisticated, reliable, safe, computerised devices that are designed to be used by lay people, with the machine itself guiding the operator through the process of dealing with cardiac arrest by way of verbal instructions and visual prompts.

Many organisations are now installing AEDs, although under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 they are not a legal requirement. Guidance to the regulations contained in L74, states that “where an employer decides to provide a defibrillator in the workplace, those who may need to use it should be trained”.

Typically, those trained to use an AED will be first aid trained employees with L74 suggesting that “training can provide additional knowledge and skills and may promote greater confidence in the use of a defibrillator”.

However, the Resuscitation Council (UK) highlight the fact that the crucial factor in resuscitation is to provide a shock from an AED “with the minimum of delay” and that AEDs have been used successfully by untrained persons.

So the Council states that “it is the view of the Resuscitation Council (UK) that the use of AEDs should not be restricted to trained personnel and that it is inappropriate to display notices to the effect that only trained personnel should use the devices, or to restrict their use in other ways”.

Although the Council does accept that there are advantages to having a core of appropriately trained employees, it believes any restrictions that act as a deterrent to the use of an AED “are against the interests of the victims of cardiac arrest”.

In respect of the school’s and/or individual’s duty of care, where untrained employees use an AED, to be held liable it would have to be shown that the intervention had left the victim in a worse situation than if there had been no intervention.

As the Resuscitation Council (UK) states, “it is difficult, in the circumstances under consideration, to see how a rescuer’s intervention could leave someone worse off since, in the case of cardiopulmonary arrest, a victim would, without immediate resuscitation, certainly die”.

In addition, modern AEDs will not allow a shock to be given unless it is actually needed and therefore are extremely unlikely to harm either the person who has collapsed, or the operator.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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