ArticlePDF Available

First aid responsibilities for hotels and resorts.

Authors:

Abstract

Historically, customer health care reflected a worldwide tradition of accommodation providers looking after their guests under a general duty of care to provide safe lodging. Increasingly there are legal requirements at most destinations for hotels and resorts to provide first aid and emergency services because they are workplaces. The new Australian First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice is a good example. Even though it is not specifically directed at first aid for visitors or guests, the fact that mandatory first aid services are required at all times at a property means that the legal and practical safety net is automatically extended to hotel and resort customers.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reports that international tourist
arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide exceeded the 1 billion mark for the first time ever in
2012, with 1,035 million tourists crossing borders. Long term forecasts suggest that interna-
tional tourist arrivals worldwide will increase by 3.3% a year to reach 1.8 billion by 2030.1
Travel medicine studies show that between 20 and 70% of these international tourists may
experience some form of illness during their time away from home.2Most of these illnesses
are not life threatening, but they can severely disrupt a vacation or business trip. The most
frequent are: travellers’ diarrhoea (accounting for up to two thirds of health problems), upper
respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and fever.
Among the current 1 billion plus travellers worldwide, of particular concern are those who
have pre-existing medical conditions and who may be relying on accommodation providers
at their destination to render first aid and emergency assistance should it be required. These
‘hidden’ conditions include diabetes, epilepsy, pregnancy, food allergies, respiratory problems,
psychiatric conditions and immunocompromised travellers.3Cardiovascular conditions are
the main cause of tourist death from illness, while road accidents and drowning lead the
injury fatalities.
While not necessarily preventable, many of these illnesses and injuries will respond to appro-
priate and timely first aid.4Survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, for example, are
significantly improved if appropriate first aid assistance is rendered in the first four minutes
following the arrest.5
292 [2013] T RAVEL LAW QUARTERLY
FIRST AID RESPONSIBILITIES FOR HOTELS AND
RESORTS
Jeff Wilks
1. UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, Volume11, January 2013.
http://dtxtq4w60xqpw.cloudfront.net/sites/all/files/pdf/unwto_barom13_01_jan_excerpt_0.pdf
2. Nothdurft, H.D. & Caumes, E. Epidemiology of health risks and travel. In: Zuckerman, J. (ed.), Principles and
Practice of Travel Medicine, 2nd edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, 19-26.
3. Tessier, D. Fitness to travel. . In: Zuckerman, J. (ed.), Principles and Practice of Travel Medicine, 2nd edition.
Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, 27-36.
4. ‘First aid’ is the immediate treatment or care given to a person suffering from an injury or illness until more
advanced care is provided or the person recovers.
5. Eisenburger, P. & Safar, P. Life supporting first aid training of the public—–review and recommendations.
Resuscitation, 1999, 41(1), 3-18.
Unfortunately, studies of lay bystander response show that less than 30% of the general
public is comfortable or willing to initiate first aid. This is not just CPR (Cardio Pulmonary
Resuscitation) or Expired Air Resuscitation (mouth-to-mouth) but even more general first aid
responses to choking, bleeding and sudden loss of consciousness.
For international tourists, many of whom are travelling with a pre-existing illness or who are
statistically more exposed to injury than local residents,6this means a greater reliance on first
aid from commercial accommodation providers.
Hotels and Resorts
Hotels and resorts are not obligated to provide medical services. Their legal duty is to provide
such first aid as they reasonably can and call the local emergency phone number for assis-
tance.7What is reasonable first aid is often mandated under workplace health and safety
legislation or local ordinances, and this varies by jurisdiction.
In Roberts v Iberotravel Limited8the plaintiff Kevin Roberts, aged six at the time of the
incident, suffered a near drowning event while on holidays with his family in Majorca. Kevin
was found floating unconscious in the swimming pool and carried by another guest to the
hotel reception. Even though there were many guests at the pool when the incident occurred,
none offered to help. Kevin sustained catastrophic brain damage.
Under Spanish law the hotel had a responsibility to provide pool attendants who could swim
and were trained in life saving and the practice of artificial respiration in cases of asphyxia
from immersion in water.
His Honour Justice Gibbs found “There is no evidence that any staff or other person
connected with the hotel and who was in any way trained in life-saving or resuscitation
responded to the emergency … In short there was, as I find, a complete absence of any signifi-
cant staff, equipment or procedure to deal with any drowning emergency”. His Honour found
the hotel negligent both in relation to Kevin’s immersion and their failure to resuscitate.
Medical evidence indicated that if Kevin, who was in a state of cardiac arrest, had been
retrieved from the pool within three minutes of immersion and effective cardiopulmonary
resuscitation been applied immediately, it is probable that he would have survived without
brain injury.
Australian Workplace Legislation
Safe Work Australia is an Australian Government statutory agency established in 2009. Safe
Work Australia consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, state and territory govern-
ments, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and
Industry and the Australian Industry Group.
[2013] T RAVEL LAW QUARTERLY 293
6. Bauer, R., Körmer, C., Parkarri, J., et al. Scope and Patterns of Tourist Accidents in the European Union. Vienna:
Austrian Board for Safety and Prevention, 2001.
7. Morris, K., Cournoyer, N.G. & Marshall, A.G. Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Law: A Preventive Approach. Clifton
Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning, 2008.
8. [2001] QBD 5 March.
In July 2012, Safe Work Australia launched the new harmonised First Aid in the Workplace
Code of Practice (the Code) which is currently being rolled out across the country.9This new
Code is an approved Code of Practice under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act
(the WHS Act). Previously, each State and Territory jurisdiction maintained its own work
health and safety regulator with responsibility for administrating and enforcing the new WHS
laws. This Code has changed the first aid responsibilities of Australian businesses.
Codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings under the WHS Act and Regulations.
Courts may regard a code of practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or
control and may rely on the code in determining what is reasonably practicable in the
circumstances to which the code relates.
As part of this new Code, workplaces are expected to undertake a risk assessment in order to
identify the first aid equipment, procedures and First Aiders10 they should have in place. The
new Code provides guidance on first aid requirements appropriate for different workplace
risks and hazards.
Implications for Hotels and Resorts
Like other workplaces, hotels and resorts have health and safety duties in relation to first aid
under the new Code, which provides:
“A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty under the
WHS Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other
persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or
undertaking.” (Emphasis added)
The WHS Regulations place specific obligations on a person conducting a business or under-
taking in relation to first aid, including requirements to:
provide first aid equipment and ensure each worker at the workplace has access to the
equipment
ensure access to facilities for the administration of first aid
ensure that an adequate number of workers are trained to administer first aid at the
workplace or that workers have access to an adequate number of other people who have
been trained to administer first aid.
While the focus of the new Code is on protecting workers and ensuring workplaces are safe,
compliance also offers a wide safety net for visitors and guests. Indeed, in planning first aid
resources the Code specifically recommends consideration of other people at the workplace
who are not workers, for example, students in workplaces such as schools, members of the
public in places of entertainment, fairgrounds and shopping centres (page 8).
294 [2013] T RAVEL LAW QUARTERLY
9. Safe Work Australia. First Aid in the Workplace: Code of Practice. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, 2012.
10. ‘First aider’ is a person who has successfully completed a nationally accredited training course or an equiva-
lent level of training that has given them the competencies required to administer first aid.
St John Ambulance Australia Report
In March 2013 St John Ambulance Australia released a comprehensive research report, ‘First
Aid Readiness in the Australian Workplace’11 to assist Australian employers and workplaces
become compliant with the new Code.
The research surveyed 100 employers (CEOs, senior managers, OHS managers) and 600
employees in the retail, education and hospitality sectors. In addition, the report integrates
information from secondary data sources (e.g. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Safe Work
Australia, academic papers) and relevant regulatory frameworks (WHS Act). Among the key
findings of the research were:
The majority of employers (65%) are unaware of the new First Aid in the Workplace Code
of Practice.
Currently, only 13% of Australian workplaces are compliant with all core elements of the
Code (accredited training opportunities, workplace first aid resources, and first aid proce-
dures/drills training).
43% of workplaces have appropriate workplace resources (first aid kits, signage), but only
24% of employees have participated in first aid procedures training or first aid drills.
Among those employees who received first aid training in the workplace, almost half
(48%) had to wait six months or more after hiring until they received that training.
Looking more closely at the hospitality industry sector, the report found that just 10% of
hospitality workplaces are fully compliant with the new Code.
Hospitality first aid ‘readiness’ across the three core elements was:
Training – accredited training and refresher readiness 36.7%
Workplace resources readiness (first aid kits, signage) 42.2%
Training – drills and procedures readiness 16.7%
Overall first aid readiness – compliant on all three above 10.0%
An interesting finding from the full report was that less than one in three Australian employ-
ees (31%) currently feels confident to perform first aid in a workplace emergency, with
reasons ranging from ‘a lack of training’ through to feeling ‘personally responsible’ if
something went wrong. The research also found that the training provided by employers is
the number one factor in making employees feel confident to act if a first aid incident occurs.
Changing Status of First Aid and the Law
Historically, customer health care reflected a worldwide tradition of accommodation providers
looking after their guests under a general duty of care to provide safe lodging. Increasingly
there are legal requirements at most destinations for hotels and resorts to provide first aid and
emergency services because they are workplaces. The new Australian First Aid in the
[2013] T RAVEL LAW QUARTERLY 295
11. St John Ambulance Australia. First Aid Readiness in the Australian Workplace. Canberra: St John Ambulance
Australia, 2013.
Workplace Code of Practice is a good example. Even though it is not specifically directed at
first aid for visitors or guests, the fact that mandatory first aid services are required at all
times at a property means that the legal and practical safety net is automatically extended to
hotel and resort customers.
Dr Jeff Wilks is Principal of Hotel Health Check, an Adjunct
Professor of Law at Griffith University, Australia and Honorary
Professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
He can be contacted at www.hotelhealthcheck.com
296 [2013] T RAVEL LAW QUARTERLY
... First aid is an increasingly important responsibility for hotels and resorts (Wilks, 2013) and an area where lifeguards can offer valuable customer care. For example, Moran and Webber (2014) reported on 8,437 incidents where New Zealand lifeguards provided first aid to beachgoers. ...
... In summary, hotels and resorts have legal and practical duties of care to their guests that clearly go well beyond putting up and relying on a sign saying "No Lifeguard on Duty: Swim at Your Own Risk" (Wilks, 2013;Wilks & Davis, 2003). Static signage is only one component in a comprehensive water safety program (Cantrill, 2008;ILS, 2015), with the employment of lifeguards increasingly recognized as a very appropriate risk management and quality service response. ...
Article
Full-text available
The law requires a tourism operator to undertake due diligence in relation to reasonably foreseeable risks. In the marine environment it is now well established that international tourists are a particular "at risk" group for drowning and near drowning events due to factors such as poor swimming ability, unfamiliarity with aquatic environments and marine recreational activities, language, possible alcohol and drug use, and general disorientation. The employment of lifeguards is increasingly recognized as an appropriate risk management and quality service response, as other popular injury prevention initiatives may not be as successful with tourists. This article examines the law and practice relating to the supply of lifeguards in tourist settings, suggesting that quality customer service has moved beyond reliance on static safety signage.
... In their workplace 143 major wounds, 18 suspected spinal injuries, 51 fractures, 2,723 minor cuts/abrasions, 1,471 "other" such as treatment for heat stroke and severe sunburn. First aid is an increasingly important responsibility for hotels and resorts ( Wilks, 2013) and an area where lifeguards can offer valuable customer care. For example, Moran and Webber (2014) reported on 8,437 incidents where New Zealand lifeguards provided first aid to beachgoers. ...
... This information would greatly assist tourism operators should an accident occur, as it puts quality customer care in perspective. In summary, hotels and resorts have legal and practical duties of care to their guests that clearly go well beyond putting up and relying on a sign saying "No Lifeguard on Duty: Swim at Your Own Risk" ( Wilks, 2013;Wilks & Davis, 2003). Static signage is only one component in a comprehensive water safety program ( Cantrill, 2008;ILS, 2015), with the employment of lifeguards increasingly recognized as a very appropriate risk management and quality service response. ...
... While lifesavers and lifeguards can deliver first aid in response to a range of beach hazards (Moran & Webber, 2014) and are clearly an effective way to provide supervision and assistance to visitors (Cortés et al., 2006) coastal and island resorts also have legal responsibilities to provide timely first aid for their guests (Wilks, 2013). The discharge of these responsibilities involves staff training and accreditation, resources (first aid kits, signage) and regular training drills (St John Ambulance Australia, 2013). ...
Chapter
Coastal and marine tourism is the largest segment of the travel industry, historically associated with the Sun, Sand and Sea imagery of beach holidays, and more recently inclusive of a broad range of boating and watercraft activities within what has been termed Blue Tourism. The health and safety of visitors in water-based environments is particularly important as the consequences of an incident can result in drowning or more serious injuries than on land. This chapter describes the activities of tourists in coastal and marine environments, where they are likely to experience difficulties and the services available through various government agencies and organisations to assist them. A particular focus is on the legal responsibilities and duties of care owed to tourists, recognising that for many visitors water-based environments are very unfamiliar settings. The chapter concludes by looking at innovations and initiatives in coastal and marine tourism in response to COVID-19 and how safety contributes to greater enjoyment of the marine environment.
... The above responsibilities have previously been discussed in relation to Australian hotels and resorts, particularly the reasonably foreseeable circumstances where a visitor or guest may require emergency assistance and the need to have staff trained in first aid. 32 The same requirements are highlighted for venues and businesses associated with the Commonwealth ...
Article
Full-text available
In the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games the possible health needs of international visitors are reviewed. Apart from the 11 countries with reciprocal health care agreements, hospital and other health services for visitors to Australia are not free and are provided on a fee-for-service basis. The article highlights the importance of tourists having appropriate insurance to cover them for medical conditions and injuries. In particular, hospital profiles show it is well documented and 'reasonably foreseeable' that some visitors may need medical assistance with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, with heart-related illness a leading cause of tourist hospital admissions in Queensland. The main external causes of injury for visitors are falls, motor vehicle and water-related incidents. Business operators are reminded of their legal responsibilities to be able to provide first aid to their staff and customers. Duty to warn responsibilities are also raised for businesses offering services to tourists, who can be considered a vulnerable group requiring additional assistance.
First Aid in the Workplace: Code of Practice. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, 2012. 10. 'First aider' is a person who has successfully completed a nationally accredited training course or an equivalent level of training that has given them the competencies required to administer first aid
  • Work Safe
  • Australia
Safe Work Australia. First Aid in the Workplace: Code of Practice. Canberra: Safe Work Australia, 2012. 10. 'First aider' is a person who has successfully completed a nationally accredited training course or an equivalent level of training that has given them the competencies required to administer first aid.