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Legal action fear sparks action by Southampton taxi drivers
1:00pm Saturday 21st September 2013 in News
THEY are potential lifesavers and a familiar sight in workplaces across the country.
But Southampton’s taxi drivers now no longer have to carry first aid kits and fire extinguishers.
They are set to ditch the equipment because they are scared of being sued – even if they just put a plaster on a passenger.
Concerned cabbies say using first aid kits to try and help injured customers could land them in court and lead to hefty payouts.
The claim they have also been advised that using fire extinguishers could invalidate insurance claims.
Today one city councillor labelled the culture of fear of legal action that taxi drivers are operating under “ridiculous”and “health and safety gone mad”.
Private hire and hackney drivers have been obliged to carry both items for decades as part of city council policy.
But at a meeting between members of the trade and council officers earlier this year, drivers brought up concerns about the policy.
With taxi drivers not obliged to undertake first aid training said they were concerned that drivers may administer treatment incorrectly and face legal action.
Some within the trade say the fear of committing crucial mistakes having assumed a duty of care to the person needing treatment and the fear of litigation puts an “extra pressure” on drivers.
They also said that insurance firms had indicated to them that they would invalidate claims if they used fire extinguishers because they have not had any training.
Now the city council’s licensing committee has removed the conditions forcing drivers to carry fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
Taxi driver and Unite union chairman Perry McMillan said: “If you apply first aid to someone incorrectly and they have an even worse injury, or if you don’t put a bandage on correctly you might be likely to be sued.
“The lack of training for taxi drivers is very important here, and I would also refer to the culture of litigation in the United States, where you can get sued for anything, which is becoming more relevant here.
“You have people putting spurious claims in against taxi drivers for various things, and we are not putting ourselves up to that? That was the question before the condition was removed.”
Ian Hall, chairman of the Southampton Hackney Association, said: “I think common sense has prevailed – it should be the driver’s decision as to whether they have a first aid kit or fire extinguisher.”
Clive Johnson, below, chairman of the Southampton T r a d e Associat i o n , said: “If we’re not allowed to do first aid [because we haven’t got training], we’re definitely not allowed to put a plaster on someone because you could be sued.
“And the fire service has always advised us to get as far away from the fire as we can and to call them.”
Licensing panel member Cllr Don Thomas, pictured below, said: “The words that spring to mind are that it’s health and safety gone mad.
“The drivers’ hands are tied and nowadays they’ve got to think twice before trying to help someone and that’s just a ridiculous situation.
“It’s not down to the drivers, it’s down to the regulations forced on them and the fear of legal action.”
Matt Howard, a spokesman for insurance firm A Plan, said: “I have never heard of the use of a fire extinguisher leading to the invalidation of insurance claims.
“Of course in the event of a fire, taxi drivers should not take any risk to life by trying to tackle a fire, but insurance companies will expect taxi drivers to take some action to attempt to lessen losses on their vehicles.
“You are only supposed to use fire extinguishers if you know how to use them, but to say they would invalidate insurance claims sounds like lunacy.”
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