Are first aiders ‘qualified’ if they do an online first aid course?

Person using laptop
Alice Squires
Publish Date:
15 Jan 2021
Reading Time:
4 minutes

First aid courses come in many different shapes and sizes. We have recently seen a huge increase in online first aid training being offered by providers - but are these courses suitable for your workplace, and does online first aid certification actually qualify you to act as a first aider?

In this blog, we break down the different types of training available, including online first aid courses, and explain how these meet the requirements set out in the Health and Safety (first-aid) regulations 1981 guidance.


Workplace first aid

First aid needs assessments

Before you can decide what sort of training you need, and if an online first aid course would suffice, you need to carry out a first aid needs assessment. This assessment takes a holistic look at your business and the associated risks, hazards and your workforce, to help determine the level of training you need, and the number of people who need it.

You may find you have a mix of training needs in different areas of your business. Read our blog to find out more about how to complete a first aid needs assessment.

First aid training in the workplace: What are my options?

Your first aid needs assessment will look at the types of injuries and illnesses that first aiders will need to know about. Most commonly, employers will book their learners onto a First aid at work course (FAW) or an Emergency first aid at work course (EFAW). These courses are outlined in the Health and Safety (first-aid) regulation guidance making them an easy off the shelf option for many as the qualifications are widely recognised and the syllabus is already decided for you.

You can however work with a training provider to develop something a little more bespoke to your needs, for instance, if you work with specific chemicals you may want specialised training included so first aiders know how to help someone if they come into contact with them.

Regardless of the training you choose, you need to make sure that any training given with the intention of it being used in the workplace, and counting towards your first aid provision, meets the requirements set out in the ‘Selecting a first aid training provider’ guide for employers, developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).


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Paediatric first aid

If you work in a childcare setting you may have additional first aid requirements depending on the age of the children you work with. The most common example of this can be seen in the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation stage, where the requirements for Paediatric first aid are outlined in more detail. In summary, whilst the syllabus differs, the framework requires you to follow the same criteria used for workplace first aid courses with regards to delivery and assessment.


Online first aid courses: Am I qualified?

All off the shelf first aid courses allow an aspect of blended learning, meaning that some aspects of the training can be delivered online. The Blended Learning in First Aid - Quality Assurance Standards, developed by the first aid quality partnership, is clear that the training duration should not be reduced regardless of any online element.

The table below set out the minimum Face-to-face training element for each of the core first aid courses used in the workplace:

  Total course minimum hours duration Minimum face-to-face learning hours
Emergency first aid at work 6 4
First aid at work 18 12
First aid at work requalification 12 6
Emergency paediatric first aid 6 6
Paediatric first aid 12 6

In addition to this, the Selecting a first aid training provider guide for employers, sets out a list of additional due diligence checks that should be carried out on providers to ensure that any aspect of training for an online first aid course meets the needs of the HSE for use in the workplace.

  • The individual being trained must know how to use the technology that delivers the training and the training provider should be able to support the individual during their training;
  • The training provider must have a robust system in place to prevent identity fraud;
  • Sufficient time must be allocated for face-to-face training of practical elements of the syllabus, the HSE also strongly recommends that practical elements of the course should be assessed by direct observation. This practical aspect will also help build confidence and willingness to act as a first aider, as you can probably imagine, it would be really daunting to be expected to give CPR if you had never had a practice run e.g. had only completed an online first aid course.
  • The provider must have an appropriate means of assessing the online learning component. It is important to remember that not all aspects of a course are suitable for online training and assessment and as a result first aid certification online is not possible without a face-to-face element for many courses.
  • Employers should also ensure they allow adequate time during the working day to undertake any first-aid training employees receive.


Online first aid certification - When can it be used for the workplace?

First aid certification online is not possible for first aid at work, Emergency first aid at work or Paediatric first aid if the content was delivered exclusively online, as it would not meet the requirements set out in the guidance.

Where your first aid needs assessment identified a qualification other than a FAW or EFAW may be more suitable you should ensure that common elements of the syllabus are taught in accordance with the same guidelines.

For some workplaces, additional first aid training, specialist elements of first aid training or bespoke training may be able to be delivered exclusively online and first aid certification online may be appropriate. For example, if your first aid needs assessment identified a member of staff had a particular health concern, e.g. diabetes, and you wanted everybody to receive training so they would be able to help with this specific condition, you may be able to do an online course to cover this. However, you would need to be confident the nature of the content were appropriate to be delivered and assessed in this way.


First aid training for use at home

If you want to learn first aid for personal reasons, and don’t intend to use it in the workplace (or as part of an official role e.g. volunteering), then you may have more choice.

You do not need a first aid certificate to ‘qualify’ you in first aid for use with family and friends for instance, meaning both the range of courses and the delivery methods used are not regulated in the same way and the level of detail and complexity will likely be adjusted accordingly. For example you may not have the equipment available at home to bandage a cut that is bleeding heavily, so training may focus more on applying pressure with something you might have to hand such as a tea towel.

Whilst this gives a much wider choice of training, it is still important to make sure you use a reputable training provider and are happy that they have processes in place to keep the information they teach up to date and to ensure the training is effective.

First aid training online is now being offered by a wide range of training providers for this purpose. It is really important not to confuse first aid for use at home with first aid for use in the workplace as the requirements and regulations covering each differ dramatically.

So, whilst online first aid courses are definitely on the increase, they don’t replace the need for face to face training and assessment if you are learning first aid for use at work. Online first aid training can be a really useful tool for refreshing knowledge, providing training on specific elements or for getting some basic first aid skills for use at home but first aid certification online is not yet possible for the workplace.

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HSE Regulations