With the rapid increase of defibrillators in the community, we’ve had lots more questions like  ‘Do workplaces need to provide a defibrillator?’, ‘Do we need to provide AED training?’ and ‘What are the defib regulations for workplaces?’.

This article provides guidance about whether workplaces have to provide defibrillators. Defibrillators are sometimes known as Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs. We tend to use the more user-friendly term ‘defib’.

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What are the legal requirements for providing a defibrillator in the workplace?

There is currently no legislation in the UK saying that defibs must be provided in workplaces or public areas.

However, The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require ’employers to ensure that provision has been made for appropriate first aid to be given to employees if they become ill or injured when at work’. This *might* include providing a defib.

So it’s a bit woolly. 

The HSE says that the responsibility for deciding whether a defibrillator is needed should be decided by the individual organisation. So still no definite answer.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Every employer in the UK is required to complete a first aid risk assessment.
  • This should include what first aid equipment is needed.
  • This should be documented, and made available to the HSE on request.
  • It would be sensible to include a defibrillator as part of your assessment.
  • In the UK, there can be liability for negligence in failing to take appropriate safety precautions on your premises.
  • There are a couple of main considerations when deciding if your workplace needs a defibrillator:

Question one: What is the likelihood of someone stopping breathing at your workplace?

As part of that assessment, you need to consider:

  • Are there large numbers of people on site or passing through the premises? The more people the larger chance of an emergency.
  • Is there any history of heart problems?
  • What is the age and health of the team? The chances of someone stopping breathing is much higher with increasing age.
  • Are there lots of physical or even dangerous activity?
  • Are you in a remote location?
  • How long would it take the emergency service to arrive?
  • The chances of resuscitation fall by at least 10% with every minute that defibrillation is delayed so there is a very real advantage in having an AED available on site.
  • Is there a community defibrillator (public access AED) available nearby?

The Resuscitation Council UK suggest attaching a numerical value to this, such as:


 Probability Score Probability of risk being realised Description
Almost certain576 – 100%Risk has a high likelihood of occurring despite precautions
Likely451 – 75%Risk has a high likelihood of occurring
Moderate326 – 50%Risk has a moderate likelihood of occurring
Unlikely211 – 25%Risk is considered unlikely to occur
Rare10 – 10%Risk will occur in rare circumstances

The likelihood of a non-breathing collapse occurring in most workplaces will be unlikely or rare (1 or 2).

Higher risk sites with many people passing through them such as a leisure centre, hotel or busy transport hub might score a moderate risk (3) or likely risk (4)

An ‘almost certain’ score (5) would only be most likely in a specialist healthcare setting.

Question two: What is the likely outcome (risk) of someone stopping responding and breathing at your workplace?

Again, the Resuscitation Council UK suggest attaching a numerical value to this. Because the potential outcome here is so serious, the score will always be 5. 


 Score Consequences Description
1 Negligible Minimal or no effects if event occurs
2 Minor Consequences very minor, no lasting effects
3 Moderate Important consequences
4 Major Significant impact/injury on anyone affected
5 Extreme Death or serious injury

Answer: Deciding whether a workplace should provide a defibrillator:

If you multiply the scores for the severity and likelihood, the risk is given a numerical value ranging from 1 to 25.

Severity (5) x Likelihood = Your workplace risk.

Use your workplace’s risk assessment score with the table below to help you decide on the suitable action:


Rating Score Action
1 – 4* Broadly acceptable – No action required
5-9 Moderate – reduce risks if reasonably practicable
10 – 15 High Risk – priory action to be undertaken
16-25 Unacceptable -action must be taken IMMEDIATELY

* This score will not be possible in the case of cardiac arrest because of the severe consequences necessitating a minimum score of 5.


From the Resuscitation Council UK:

Using the risk assessment system described above, most sites will score either 5 or 10 which suggests that there is a reasonable possibility of a cardiac arrest occurring in most locations. Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to reduce this risk.  This means that the only practicable action possible is to ensure that in an emergency the location and accessibility of the AED is easy and well known to all staff.

But, it isn’t just about the numbers.

Many workplaces feel that providing a defibrillator is a good idea on a moral and wellbeing level.

Chance of survival of up to 75% has been reported when a defib is used within three minutes of someone collapsing.

Even if you are based somewhere near an ambulance station, you cannot assume that ambulances are always on standby.

Ambulances targets are to reach a life-threatening emergency within 8 minutes, but many factors such as location, time of day and other emergencies can significantly increase this.

That’s why organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, the Resuscitation Council UK and IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) recommend that they are available.

For more information. you may wish to review this article from the Resuscitation Council UK.

Do workplaces have to provide a defibrillator or first aid cover for members of the public?

Regulations do not technically include providing cover for members the public. But, the HSE strongly recommend that employers take into account the public and others on their premises. If the HSE ‘strongly recommend’ something, you would need to strongly justify not doing it!

International resuscitation guidelines currently suggest that a public access defib would be advisable when:

  • The chance of a cardiac arrest (someone stopping breathing and responding) is at least once in a two-year period.
  • The time from calling an ambulance to a defib being used cannot reliably be achieved within five minutes.

How much does a defibrillator cost?

The price of defibs has reduced significantly in recent years. Most are now available under or around £1000. We supply defibrillators that have been tried, tested and approved by our training team. Compare prices of defibrillators in our online shop by clicking here.

Do workplaces need to provide defib training?

Defibrillators are designed to be easy to use. Audible and often visual prompts allow them to be used by untrained individuals. However, practical training will boost confidence.

The Resuscitation Council UK says:

It is also important that staff receive regular training in resuscitation techniques and are familiar ideally through training in how to use an AED.  Indeed HSE in their guidance strongly recommend that workplace first aiders receive annual refresher training in order to maintain their competency.

All of our first aid training courses include practical training in the use of a defibrillator. Short courses such as Essential Life Support can also be used to give a practical overview of basic life support (BLS/CPR) and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Free online defibrillator overview training is also available. Here is the link to our defib user guide video overview.


If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. Or, you can call us on 0330 335 1234 and we’ll be happy to help.


SkillBase First Aid Training Courses Blog

Do workplaces need to provide a defibrillator?

The bottom line: Every workplace should assess the risk of a life-threatening emergency occurring. The chances of reducing that risk may be minimal. Providing a defibrillator the workplace can significantly improve the outcome in such an emergency. 


Richard Craddock

Richard is the Managing Director at SkillBase First Aid

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