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Niamh Spence


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First aid training: Why is it so important?


Every employer is required to have adequate first aid to handle everything from small incidents to emergencies, and to look after their employees at work. Niamh Spence underlines why it's more than just a cursory requirement.

Why is it important to have first aid training in the workplace?

The first four minutes after an accident are the most crucial in saving a life and avoiding significant impairments later in life. Hundreds of people are injured in workplace accidents every year, and first aid training is crucial. Keeping first aid training up-to-date is important to ensure incidents are dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner.

Despite the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 requiring all workplaces to provide adequate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention, there are many employers who fail to keep up to date. Not only can delayed care lead to further illness and injury resulting in prolonged employee absence, it can even result in fatalities and lead to legal action against the employer.

What first aid training do workplaces legally require?

Every workplace is required to have a degree of first-aid care on the premises. The following requirements apply to all places of employment, including those with fewer than five members of staff and also the self-employed:

  • A well-stocked first aid kit

  • An appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements and care

  • Information and resources for employees about first aid arrangements

Assessing first aid needs for the workplace

It is important to assess the needs of a workplace; for example if a company has a large number of staff the first aid kit will need to accommodate this, or if the work being undertaken carries any risks.

  • Is the business low or high risk? A low-risk environment might be an office or retail setting, where there is less chance of an employee injuring themselves. Comparatively, a workplace in which employees will be operating heavy machinery, chemicals or hazardous materials will present a greater chance of injury and would be deemed a high risk environment.
  • How big is the workforce? The size of the business will determine how many appointed persons are needed, the size of the first aid kit and whether there is a need for more than one kit to be made accessible on the premises. It is also important to take into account if any employees have a disability or long-term health problems, which an appointed first aid person would need to handle.
  • How large are the work premises? If a business spans several floors or a large area it is advisable to have more than one kit and an appointed person for specific areas or floors.
  • Does the business involve work with children? Children, toddlers and babies in particular require specialised medical care such as specialist paediatric first aid care. A recent petition that gathered over 102,000 signatures has called for nursery workers to undergo full paediatric first aid training following the death of Millie Thompson in 2012, a nine-month old baby who choked whilst in nursery care and died due to the delay in emergency action.
  • How close are emergency services and sites for further care? For many city centre businesses, emergency services are easily accessible and can be reached quickly. However, for any workplaces situated in rural or difficult-to-reach areas, it may be sensible to consider investing in enhanced first aid training and life saving equipment which can be beneficial whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive. 
  • Is the business open to the public and visitors, or is it a private space? For a business entertaining regular visitors or members of the public, this should be accounted for when assessing the first aid needs including equipment, personnel and training.

Appointing first aid personnel

Depending on the needs of a workplace, there may be an appointed first-aider assigned to handle all first aid matters in the workplace. This person will undergo sufficient training and handle all first aid duties on the premises, including:

  • Maintaining first aid equipment and facilities

  • Providing basic medical care and attention to injured persons

  • Calling the emergency services when required

When choosing a first-aider it is important to assess the needs of the workplace. A large workplace with inadequate first aid care can result in a delay in medical attention, which could cause further illness or even a fatality.

Ideally, for low-risk workplaces with fewer than 25 employees on site, one first aider should be enough to handle incidents and administer care. If the workforce has between 25 and 50 members of staff then appoint two trained personnel, and if the workforce is any larger then it is advisable to have one first aider for every 100 people. These personnel will take charge of replenishing the first aid box and contacting the emergency services if necessary.

In a high-risk workplace this is different, and the need is increased due to the nature of the work and the dangers imposed. One fully trained first aider for every 50 people should be enough to handle any incidents – however it is advisable to have more due to employee absence such an annual leave and sickness. The first-aiders will be trained to act and offer medical care should an accident occur.

Once appointed, it is important to maintain an up-to-date knowledge of any procedural changes and regular training should be undertaken. It is also important to clearly inform employees who their trained first-aider is and where the first aid box and equipment is kept; at this point take into account any employees with learning difficulties, disabilities or who speak another language and may have trouble understanding any notices in order to accommodate these needs.

What further steps can be taken?

Looking into specialised medical action is a wise move for employers and companies wishing to cover themselves for any further eventualities. Basic first aid covers essential skills however advancements such as defibrillator training will require further training that can save lives.

Only 49% of workplaces currently have defibrillators, and as the emergency services aim to respond to cardiac incidents within eight minutes it makes sense to equip your workforce with the knowledge to handle an emergency. With 60,000 cardiac arrests occurring out of hospital every year in the UK it is important for your employees to know how to respond.

Having a defibrillator and the trained personnel to administer CPR alongside care is the difference between life and death, as every minute a victim of sudden cardiac arrest goes without care, their chance of survival is reduced by 10%.

The importance of first aid training

First aid training is an essential part of any workplace that should not be overlooked. Not only does it ensure that any emergencies will be handled with care, but it is a legal requirement that can be costly if neglected and it is important to instil confidence in employees that they are well looked after.


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Niamh Spence

Staff writer

Read more from Niamh Spence

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