In the United Kingdom, defibrillators play a crucial role in saving lives during cardiac emergencies. The presence of defibrillators in public spaces and workplaces can significantly improve the chances of survival for individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Though these life-saving devices are increasingly prevalent, the question of their legal requirements and regulations remains a topic of interest and concern for many.

Until recently, there were no legal requirements to have a defibrillator in any location in the UK, with most workplaces and public spaces having no mandatory regulations to provide an automated external defibrillator (AED). However, schools have become an exception, with certain rules imposed on them for the provision of defibrillators. Despite the lack of legal requirements for the devices, the government has been proactive in raising public awareness about defibrillators and increasing their accessibility through a £1 million fund.

Employers are encouraged to have defibrillators in the workplace as proper first aid equipment, although there are no specific legal requirements for them to do so. Nevertheless, official guidelines suggest that businesses and organisations should evaluate their on-site risks and requirements to decide whether installing an AED would be beneficial. Consequently, the UK encourages the presence of defibrillators, even in the absence of explicit legal requirements.

Legal Framework

In the United Kingdom, there is currently no legal obligation for most workplaces and public spaces to have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on site. The exception to this rule is schools, which are required to provide AEDs.

Although there is no legal requirement to have a defibrillator in many locations, it is important to note that there is no legal obligation for individuals to help a person in need of resuscitation, provided they were not the cause of the person needing help.

Regarding the Defibrillators Availability Bill, it was introduced to parliament in 2018 and is currently making its way through the House of Commons. This bill recognises the need for AEDs in public places and requires people to be trained in using them.

Lastly, for employers and organisations willing to provide AEDs at their premises, although it is not a legal requirement, they should comply with certain regulations to ensure adequate and appropriate first aid equipment and facilities are available.

Workplace Requirements

In the UK, there is currently no specific legal requirement for employers to provide a defibrillator (AED) in the workplace. However, employers are required to complete a first aid risk assessment, which should include considerations for first aid equipment and facilities, as stated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

When the first aid risk assessment indicates that a first-aider is not necessary, a minimum requirement is to appoint a person responsible for first aid arrangements. Their role includes looking after first aid equipment, maintaining facilities, and calling emergency services when necessary. This appointed person could also be responsible for AED if one is provided by the employer.

Although there is no legal obligation to provide an AED for most workplaces, schools in England are an exception. The Department for Education has announced that by the end of the academic year 2022/2023, all schools in England should have at least one AED on their premises.

Employers are encouraged to consider providing an AED as part of their first aid risk assessment. Including a defibrillator in the workplace can help save lives in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. In addition to the AED, it is recommended that workplaces offer employees awareness training in the use of automated external defibrillators to ensure proper functioning and support during emergencies.

Public Access Defibrillators

Public Access Defibrillators (PADs) play a crucial role in improving survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims. These devices are designed to be used by the general public in emergency situations, even by those without formal training in their use. In the UK, there are several legal requirements and guidelines surrounding the provision and use of PADs.

The Resuscitation Council (UK) highlights that PADs must meet specific standards to ensure their safe and effective use. For instance, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) should adhere to the necessary industry standards and possess CE marking, which indicates conformity with European Union standards.

In addition to device standards, PAD placement and accessibility are essential factors to consider. Organisations and initiatives aiming to implement PAD programs are encouraged to follow guidelines provided by the American Heart Association (AHA) and other relevant organisations. These guidelines typically recommend placing PADs in highly visible and accessible locations, with clear signage and instructions.

PAD providers must also ensure that their devices are regularly maintained and inspected. This includes checking battery life, pad expiration dates, and the overall functionality of the AED. Establishing a clear maintenance schedule and assigning responsible individuals to oversee inspections can contribute significantly to the success of a PAD program.

Lastly, it is essential to raise awareness and educate the public about PADs and their use. This can include offering CPR and AED training sessions, distributing educational materials, and partnering with local organisations to promote the importance of early defibrillation.

Training and Maintenance

While there are no specific legal requirements for defibrillator training in the UK, it is recommended that individuals designated to use the device have appropriate training. This is essential to ensure quick and effective response in case of an emergency.

Maintaining a defibrillator in the workplace is crucial. The speed of deployment of the AED is critical; therefore, it should always be ready for use. A responsible person in the workplace should perform weekly visual checks on the device and maintain records of these checks. The checks should include:

  • Inspecting the condition of the device
  • Confirming pad and battery expiry dates
  • Ensuring accessibility of the defibrillator

In addition to these checks, certain aspects, such as pad and battery replacements, should be carried out when necessary. Although pads are single-use and batteries typically last between 4 and 7 years, their shelf life may vary between 1.5 to 5 years.

Following a thorough maintenance schedule ensures that the workplace defibrillator remains in optimal working condition and is available for immediate use in case of sudden cardiac arrest.

Liability and Good Samaritan Laws

When discussing defibrillators in the UK, it’s important to consider the legal aspects surrounding their use. This includes liability and Good Samaritan laws.

Good Samaritan laws aim to protect those who provide assistance to someone in need during an emergency, such as using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to help a person experiencing a cardiac arrest. These laws offer a level of legal protection to individuals who act in good faith to help another person in distress. This protection helps encourage individuals to take action and potentially save lives without fear of legal repercussions in case an adverse outcome occurs despite their best efforts. In the UK, there is no specific Good Samaritan law, but it is generally acknowledged that those who offer help in an emergency are not likely to face legal action for their actions.

Regarding liability for AED owners and users in the UK, several guidelines and legal frameworks exist to ensure proper use and management of defibrillators. AED owners, whether individuals or businesses, have a duty of care to maintain their AED properly, ensuring it is in working order and accessible for use in an emergency. Liability for AED use is limited as long as the person using the AED does so in the best interests of the victim and follows the instructions provided by the device.

In summary, as long as an individual or AED owner follows guidelines and takes reasonable steps to use a defibrillator during an emergency, they are unlikely to face legal repercussions. It is important to be aware of these liability and Good Samaritan provisions when owning or using a defibrillator in the UK context.


In summary, the legal landscape surrounding defibrillators in the UK has shifted in recent years, with a growing focus on increasing their availability and usage in public spaces and schools. Although many locations still have no specific legal requirement to provide Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), exceptions include state-funded schools in England, which are required to have AEDs on-site as of 2023.

Moreover, the Defibrillators Availability Bill, introduced in 2018, is progressing through the House of Commons and emphasises the importance of not only the presence of defibrillators in public places but also the promotion of adequate training in their use. This legislative effort, alongside the planned inclusion of CPR training in the UK curriculum by 2020, highlights a growing acknowledgement of the significance of AEDs in improving survival rates following sudden cardiac arrest incidents.

As society moves towards enhanced awareness and preparedness for cardiac emergencies, it is important for organisations and individuals to be both familiar and compliant with the evolving laws and guidelines surrounding AEDs. This knowledge can ultimately contribute to reducing the substantial number of lives lost to sudden cardiac arrest each year in the UK.

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