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First aiders in the workplace

As an employer, it is your duty to provide the necessary equipment, facilities, and personnel to give employees immediate attention if they are injured or fall ill whilst they are at work. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 state that all employers need to carry out an assessment of their business, including the size of the workforce and the risks that are posed, to determine what is needed and how many people need to be trained in first aid.

An employer can then appoint people to take charge of the first aid arrangements, including looking after equipment, calling the emergency services when necessary, and checking if the first aid kit is fully stocked. They do not need to be formally trained, but at least one appointed person must be available whenever people are at work.

It may be necessary to ensure that one or more persons in the workplace are trained in first aid. They should be trained by a competent training provider, and their training will need to be kept up to date with regular refresher courses.

It may seem logical that, once trained, a first aider should administer help whenever and wherever it is needed, but this is not necessarily the case. The main duty of a first aider is to provide immediate medical assistance when required, and the extent of that treatment will depend on the seriousness of the problem.

Initially, they will need to assess the situation as quickly as possible to ensure that it is safe for them and the person needing help, before stabilising their condition and preventing further harm from coming to them. This could take the form of anything from performing CPR to stopping bleeding or dealing with choking, but it should only be done using techniques that the first aider has been trained in to avoid causing additional harm.

The first aider may decide that additional help is needed, and if so they should contact the emergency services or ask someone nearby to do this for them. For minor injuries, it may be more appropriate to call NHS 111 or to instruct the injured person to see their GP.

For any first aid incident, communication is key, and so it is important to talk to the person concerned at all times, explaining who you are, trying to gain more information about their condition, and talking about the appropriate next steps. The injured person should be monitored throughout in order to spot any change in their condition, allowing the first aider to modify their treatment if necessary.

The first aider is also required to keep full details of the incident for legal purposes. This includes the time, location, and date of the incident, what the problem was, and what first aid treatment was provided. It may be necessary to keep copies of accident forms as further evidence.

Further first aid duties

As a first aider, it is important to keep all skills up to date. This can be because advice on treatment can change over time, and due to the fact that certain skills can be forgotten if they are not used regularly. The Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) and First Aid at Work courses provide a certificate that is valid for three years, meaning that it will be necessary to repeat the course after this time.

First aiders should also be aware of the risks and hazards that are present in the workplace. This could be something that could be raised as part of a risk assessment or could highlight the need for extra training if a particular incident, such as a chemical burn, might be a particular risk.

It is also the responsibility of the first aider to make sure that they are familiar with the contents of any first aid kits and provision. You must make sure you know where to find them, what they include, and how to use them. If your workplace has an AED (a type of defibrillator) accessible, then additional training in how to use it may be appropriate

Can I be sued for doing first aid?

Whilst offering first aid involves providing help in someone’s hour of need, it is not without risk. Whilst there have been stories and urban myths circulated of people being sued after administering life saving first aid, in the UK this is highly unlikely. The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 (SARAH) was introduced in England and Wales to help protect those who offer reasonable assistance to someone who is unwell or has sustained an injury. This offers a degree of safeguarding to those who try to offer first aid in good faith.

If a case of negligence is brought against a first aider, courts are advised to consider whether they were acting for the benefit of society, took a responsible approach, or acted heroically.

The risk comes if it is believed that you were negligent or reckless, or if you acted outside of the scope of your training and competence. If this is deemed to be the case, then you could face legal consequences, which is why you should only stick to the techniques you have been trained in, seek professional help when necessary, document the care you offer, and keep your training up to date.

First aiders are incredibly valuable, and they can provide life saving and immediate help when it is needed. By following your training and being responsible, it is easy to stay within the remit of the law.

Catherine Ryan
Catherine Ryan
Managing Director of Empeiria Training

Catherine Ryan is the Managing Director of Empeiria Training who offer a range of training courses across social care, positive behaviour, first aid and epilepsy in Ellesmere Port and across the UK.

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