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Coach drivers and first aid: what are the legal requirements?

When it comes to emergency situations on the road, should coach drivers be expected to know and perform effective first aid? Although health and safety law requires employers to ensure adequate numbers of suitable persons can administer first aid, what are the rules for drivers operating in isolation from the workplace? Despite the plethora of regulations surrounding health and safety at work, the issue of first aid for coach drivers remains unclear and potentially problematic.

When it comes to emergency situations on the road, should coach drivers be expected to know and perform effective first aid? Although health and safety law requires employers to ensure adequate numbers of suitable persons can administer first aid, what are the rules for drivers operating in isolation from the workplace? Despite the plethora of regulations surrounding health and safety at work, the issue of first aid for coach drivers remains unclear and potentially problematic.

The current legal framework for first aid in the workplace can be found in domestic legislation. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (the "Regulations"), set out the legal duties of employers to make provision for first aid, but do not provide specific detail on what equipment or training must be provided. Rather, the Regulations state that first aid provisions should be adequate and appropriate to the circumstances. The Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") have published guidance on the Regulations, aspects of which are relevant to the road transport sector. For example HSE advise employers to consider making special arrangements for mobile members of staff, including placing first aid kits in vehicles. In addition, HSE recommend that employers should consider training these employees in emergency first aid at work, particularly if they are involved in higher-hazard activities. The Regulations do not stipulate that advanced first aid training is a legal requirement for drivers, however.

Under European law, specifically Directive 2003/59/EC, drivers are required to hold a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence ("CPC"). In order to maintain their qualification of driver, existing drivers must complete 35 hours of periodic training every five years. It is within this context that coach drivers can take advanced first aid training courses, which, if completed every five years, would ensure drivers are kept informed of developments in administering effective first aid.

As the current legal framework for first aid lacks sector-specific detail, there remain grey areas that could become problematic for workers such as coach drivers. One such grey area is the development and emergence of new products and devices designed for use when performing first aid. Until adequate training for these products is offered and recognised by HSE, coach drivers may well be at risk if they choose to use these products while administering first aid. Coach drivers are therefore advised to approach the issue of first aid with caution.

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