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Anyone can have an accident or become ill at work. It’s vitally important there is always someone on hand to provide the right level of first aid for the situation.

The principles of first aid, as set out by the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations (FAR), are to:

  • Preserve life;
  • Prevent the condition from getting worse/minimise its consequences until medical help arrives (if needed);
  • Promote recovery of the person requiring first aid;
  • Provide treatment where medical attention is not required.

It’s essential that first aid is provided by someone with the right knowledge, skills and experience.

Correct and timely action can stop minor injuries from becoming major, or untreated symptoms from becoming much worse, and may even prevent a fatality.

  • Complete a first aid needs assessment to identify what first aid arrangements (e.g. first aid trained personnel, facilities and equipment) should be available in the workplace. When making the assessment, consider a number of factors, such as:

    - the size of the organisation;

    - type of workforce (i.e. ratio of permanent employees vs. temporary staff and contractors); 

    - how to provide first aid at all times when workers are on site;

    - different work activities;

    - past experience (history of injuries and illnesses);

    - ease of access to medical treatment (e.g. due to distance from a hospital and traffic and road conditions around the premises);

    - off-site workers;

    - workers from multiple employers working on the same site;

    - provisions for non-employees;

    absences of first aiders through holidays, illness, etc.
  • Make suitable arrangements for all employment types. Self-employed persons should assess what they need to provide for their own first aid needs while at work. Employers and the self-employed should agree joint arrangements for first aid cover where they work at shared or multi-tenure sites or workplaces under the control of others.
  • Have a suitably stocked first aid container within small and low risk premises, as well as an appointed person available at all times people are at work, to take charge of first aid arrangements.

    - If first aiders work in shift patterns, then care should be taken to ensure at least one is on site during each shift.
  • Identify and select competent training providers. Training is available from a wide range of providers, including:

    - those regulated by the qualification regulators (i.e. Ofqual, SQA and the Welsh Government);

    - trade or industry body quality assured schemes;

    - independent providers able to provide satisfactory evidence of their competence; and

    - voluntary aid societies (usually charities), such as St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and St Andrew’s First Aid.
  • Determine the type of training course appropriate for the workplace, i.e. whether the first aider(s) should be First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) trained, by considering the findings of the assessment and the types of injuries and illnesses that may arise.

    - The scope of the training requirements for FAW and EFAW are set out in HSE guidance document L74. If the assessment indicates that first aiders should be trained to FAW standard, it is not acceptable to provide first aiders that possess an EFAW certificate instead.

    - Keep in mind that FAW and EFAW course certificates are valid for just three years, so first aiders must requalify before it expires. They can requalify for the FAW at any time after the expiry date by undertaking the two-day requalification course, but the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) advises that where a considerable period (i.e. in a month or longer) has elapsed since the expiry date, then a full three day course should be taken; The EFAW will be the same duration and content as the initial course.

    - An annual refresher training and basic skills update course is recommended but not mandatory.
  • Consider additional medical expertise (e.g. an on-site doctor and/or nurse) where the risk is deemed medium to high
  • Appoint individuals (in addition to first aiders) to look after first aid equipment. Their duties should include keeping first aid containers fully stocked and ensure items are within their use-by dates, but they shouldn’t administer first aid. During an incident requiring first aid, they are limited to taking charge and calling an ambulance, if necessary.
  • Review first aid needs assessments annually, or when circumstances change (e.g. processes or equipment changes, or when it is identified that a worker is at higher risk due to an existing condition).
  • Consider a mental health first aider (MHFA) in your workplace. A MHFA can help promote and maintain a healthy workplace, minimise the impact of mental ill health on your business and people and proactively manage health and wellbeing. Yourself and / or employees can be trained with MHFA England
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Frequently asked questions
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When you’re arranging first aid provisions you should consider all the hazards that could cause injury to workers, visitors and customers, including those covered within the following risk topic pages: