It was reported by the BBC earlier this week that rail staff at First Capital Connect (St Albans) failed to render first aid assistance to a passenger other than allowing another passenger to call for an ambulance.
Fortunately, a fellow passenger did step up to assist, but it does raise a number of questions about the responsibility of companies to their customers. So we thought we'd take a closer look.
The passenger that did go to the other person’s aid complained to First Capital Connect and received the following response that even if they had been trained in first aid “this is only offered to staff and not customers.”
Legal vs Moral
Whilst legally the rail company only has to provide training to cover their staff and employees the HSE strongly recommends that cover for members of the general public ought to be considered when risk assessments are made. One should also consider the moral implications of not providing cover for your customers.
While many may feel that this First Capital Connect’s response is unacceptable from a company which is a ‘public service provider’, it is easy to see why they have taken this stand.
In the first instance, they have huge numbers of staff who would require training (at a not inconsiderable cost) in order to fulfil this need.
Secondly, the logistics of reliably scheduling staff for their first aid, as well as job-specific capabilities would be a nightmare – I know, I’ve had to do it.
"the logistics of reliably scheduling staff for their first aid, as well as job-specific capabilities would be a nightmare – I know, I’ve had to do it"
But the overriding reason for companies such as this to not provide first aid cover for customers, is that they could open themselves up to litigation, should treatment be unsuccessful. While companies are not required by law to offer such cover, why should they put themselves at unnecessary risk?
Like medical practitioners, first aiders should be able to treat the injured or unwell person in front of them, without having to judgements over whether they are legally safe to do so.
But perhaps we should look at ways of indemnifying companies and their first aiders who deal with emergencies from the unfortunate but real risk of their actions being unsuccessful. That way, they can do what they were trained to do, without fear of legal repercussions.
First Capital Connect have now announced that they are reviewing their procedures to avoid incidents like this happening again.