First aid legal FAQs
For many businesses, the legalities around providing first aid at work can be confusing, especially in light of new guidance released by the HSE in October 2009. To help, we have compiled some answers to the most common concerns.
What is a first aider?
A first aider is someone who has completed a training course that is accredited by the Health and Safety Executive, either a first aid at work or emergency first aid at work course.
What is an appointed person?
The minimum requirement for any workplace is to have somebody who is appointed to take care of first aid arrangements. Typically, the appointed person would be in charge of looking after first aid equipment and be responsible for calling the emergency services in the event of a serious injury or illness. An appointed person should not attempt to administer any first aid technique they have not been trained in.
A half-day training course is available in basic first aid for appointed persons, which is suitable when the company's risk assessment indicates that this basic level of cover is appropriate. The one-day emergency first aid at work course is HSE-accredited and qualifies the trainee as a recognised first aider within the workplace.
How many first aiders do I need?
The number of first aiders you need will depend on an assessment of first aid needs, also known as a risk assessment. This should take into consideration things like the industry sector you work in, the number of employees you have and any previous history of accidents.
How often do first aiders need to requalify?
First aiders need to requalify every three years to maintain their status as a recognised first aider at work. If you hold a first aid at work certificate, you can requalify by completing the two-day first aid at work requalification course. You must complete this course before your existing certificate expires.
If you hold an emergency first aid at work certificate, you must requalify by completing the one-day training every three years.
The HSE strongly recommends that anyone who holds a first aid qualification should attend an annual update course to refresh their skills and maintain their confidence to perform them correctly.
Is there an age limit for first aiders?
There is no age limit for first aiders. However, trainees must be physically able to demonstrate the techniques taught on the course.
Do I need to provide first aid training for travelling, lone or remote workers?
Employers are required to provide access to first aid for all employees while they are at work. If you have workers who travel regularly, work off-site or work alone, you must consider them when conducting your risk assessment. Your risk assessment will determine if they should be trained in first aid, be issued with a means of summoning help (such as a mobile phone) or should be issued with a personal first aid box.
What is the difference between first aid at work and first aid for the general public?
If you wish to learn first aid so you can be the recognised first aider for your workplace, you must complete a training course that is approved by the Health and Safety Executive. The course you need will depend on the outcome of your first aid needs assessment. Help to identify the right workplace first aid course is available using our online course calculator.
The British Red Cross also provides courses for those who want to learn first aid for personal, domestic, social or leisure purposes. These courses would teach you first aid techniques but would not allow you to act as the recognised first aider at your place of work. We have courses teaching how to administer first aid to adults and to children. First aid courses for the general public.
What first aid equipment do I need to provide?
The minimum that any workplace must provide is a suitably stocked first aid box. There is no definitive list of what your first aid box should contain, as it will depend on the nature of your work and number of employees. Your first aid needs assessment should give you an idea of what to include, but you can get more advice from the HSE.
If there is no mains tap where you work, you must also provide a way to irrigate an injured eye. Where there is no mains tap, you should keep one litre of sterile water or normal saline solution in sealed, disposable containers. Do not use if the seal is broken or they have passed their expiry date.
Should we have an automated external defibrillator (AED)?
There is no mandatory requirement for you to have a defibrillator in your workplace. However, in cases of sudden cardiac arrest, early defibrillation offers the best chances of survival so you may wish to consider providing a machine for your staff. If you do provide a defibrillator, only staff with the appropriate training should use it.
Can first aiders give medicine to casualties?
First aid at work does not cover giving out tablets or medicines and as a rule you should avoid doing so. However, there are some exceptions. If you suspect someone is suffering from a heart attack, you may - with their permission - give aspirin. Your assessment of first aid needs should identify if there is a requirement for you to keep aspirin on site for such cases.
If someone suffers anaphylactic shock, a first aider may treat them using an Epipen if:
- they feel they are dealing with a life-threatening situation
- if the casualty has been prescribed and is in possession of the Epipen
- the first aider has been appropriately trained in Epipen use.
Tablets and medication must not be stored in the first aid box. Get more advice from the HSE.