Today’s correspondent is writing
… in my role as first aid trainer in the ACT and NSW. I’ve recently come across a peculiar question about AED signage. The First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice which applies to NSW and ACT mentions Australian Standard 1319 in regard to Emergency Signage. The question that arose was in regard to the AED signs that sometimes appear in red&white rather than white&green.
The questions were – is a standard mandated and would there be fines for not adhering to this standard?
I was given two photos to show the difference.
I was also provided with a copy of Australian Standard AS 1319—1994 Safety signs for the occupational environment (published 18 April 1994). The standard defines emergency information signs as ‘Signs indicating the location of, or directions to, emergency related facilities such as exits, safety equipment or first aid facilities’. The standard goes on to say (at [2.3.5]) ‘Emergency information signs shall comprise a white symbol or worded legend, or both, on a green rectangular sign with white enclosure’. Table B4 has some emergency information signs but they do not include an AED sign. The sign for ‘first aid’ is shown in Table B4 as:
It would appear (without going into details of font and sign size etc) that the sign shown in the photo provided as a ‘Vivomed AED wall sign’ complies with the standard, the other one does not.
The SafeWork NSW Code of Practice First Aid in the Workplace (July 2015) says (at [3.2]) ‘Displaying well-recognised, standardised first aid signs will assist in easily locating first aid equipment and facilities. Further information on the design and use of signs is available in AS 1319 – Safety Signs for the Occupational Environment’. It refers readers to the standard but does not say that signs must comply with that standard.
Even if it did, compliance with the Code of Practice is not mandatory. A code may be admitted into evidence in any prosecution for breach of work health and safety duties, and a court may have regard to the Code when considering what is known about a risk and what constitutes a reasonable response to that risk (Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) s 275). In context that means that a court could rely on the code to conclude that there is knowledge that failure to use signs can lead to difficulty in locating emergency equipment and a reasonable response to that risk is to display ‘well-recognised, standardised first aid signs’ but that does not mean that another response is not also a reasonable response to the risk. In any prosecution it would be up to the Crown to prove that the use of the non-standard black, red and white sign exposed workers or others to an increased risk to health and safety.
There would be no fines for using the non-standard sign unless the Crown can prove that the use of that sign meant that workers or those at the work place were exposed to a risk to their health and safety by the use of the sign, eg that people would fail to recognise what the sign meant. As noted, compliance with the Code of Practice and the Standard is not mandatory so whilst it would depend on all the circumstances, but I cannot imagine a WorkSafe inspector is going to be too concerned about the sign. A prudent Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (a PCBU) would no doubt prefer, and try to find, a sign that met the standard of being ‘green and white’ but if that was not available putting up the other sign would be better than no sign at all.