What are HSE's first aid regulations and criteria for choosing a training provider?

First aider learning bandaging on a person's head
Alice Squires
Publish Date:
20 Jul 2021
Reading Time:
5 Mins

Having completed your first aid needs assessment you are likely starting to look at courses and training providers that meet your criteria .

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) doesn't approve training providers or courses for you. As an employer, it’s your duty to perform your own due diligence and ensure that the course, and how it’s delivered, meets the standards outlined by the HSE and, most importantly, your needs.

The HSE has set out criteria in five key areas in their guidance: Selecting a first aid training provider: A guide for employers (GEI63), which are as follows:

  1. Has suitably qualified trainers and assessors.
  2. Operates effective quality assurance procedures.
  3. Teaches currently accepted first aid practice.
  4. Provides a suitable training syllabus that meets your needs.
  5. Issues compliant first aid certificates.

In this blog, we’ll explore the above criteria in more detail so you can make an informed decision about choosing a first aid trainer provider and ensure they meet the HSE first aid regulations.


HSE first aid regulations

The HSE states that as long as the first aid training provider has the necessary skills and competence to teach first aid and a thorough quality assurance process, they do not need to be approved by an awarding organisation - but all of their first aid at work courses must meet the requirements set out in the document ‘selecting a first aid training provider- a guide for employers’ published by the HSE.

You may find that some training providers state that their first aid at work courses are Level 3 on the Recognised Qualifications Framework (RQF) - but measuring training by using levels isn’t a legal requirement and is not an automatic indicator of quality.

Not all providers will be approved by an awarding organisation or Ofqual-registered, for instance the voluntary aid societies such as British Red Cross, are identified as standard setters for first aid training in the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 and do not require external accreditation through an Awarding Organisation.

Has suitably qualified trainers and assessors

The HSE has a checklist for evaluating the competence of first aid training organisations, which covers required qualifications and skills trainers must possess.

Ask yourself or the training organisation questions such as:

  • Does the training provider have a current First aid at work certificate or qualify for an exemption?
  • Do they have an appropriate training/assessing qualification?
  • How often are their trainers and assessors assessed? Are they adhering to the HSE first aid regulations of a minimum re-assessment per annum?

Operates effective quality assurance procedures

External quality assurance accreditation demonstrates that providers are meeting the minimum standards required by the HSE.

This could be through a regulated awarding organisation or alternatives, such as ISO 9001, which is the most widely used and accepted quality management standard in the world.

The expectation from the HSE first aid regulations is that training providers meet the following criteria:

  • Have a documented quality assurance plan designating an individual to take responsibility for quality assurance, including assessment of the performance of trainers/assessors at least annually.
  • Have a current FAW certificate or qualify for an exemption.
  • Have an assessing/verifying qualification.
  • Have a documented course evaluation procedure.
  • Have a documented complaints procedure.

Teaches currently accepted first aid practice

The HSE first aid regulations state that training should be taught in accordance with current guidelines on adult basic life support published by the Resuscitation Council (UK), and for other aspects of first aid, in accordance with current guidelines published by the Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS) or other published guidelines that are supported by a responsible body of medical opinion.

The HSE recognises the VAS (British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and St Andrew’s First Aid) as the standard setters for currently accepted first-aid practice.

The VAS produces the First Aid Manual – the UK’s only comprehensive guide to treating casualties in first aid emergencies.

They also form part of the First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP), alongside other leading experts in the field. The FAQP publishes recommended quality assurance standards for all training providers to follow (and is observed by the HSE).

Provides a suitable training syllabus that meets your needs

To comply with your legal duties under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 your choice of training must be appropriate and adequate, based on a needs assessment and reasonable investigation being conducted.

The level of training needed to be undertaken by your first-aiders will determined by the outcome of your first aid needs assessment, which will identify how many first-aiders you need and the level of training required, according to the hazards/risks of your working environment .

For First aid at work, the training and assessment should be at least 18 hours (not including breaks) over a minimum period of three days.

The syllabus should include topic relating to:

  • Helping someone who has injuries to bones, muscles and joints, including suspected spinal injuries.
  • Helping someone with chest injuries.
  • Helping someone with burns and scalds.
  • Helping someone with an eye injury.
  • Helping someone who has been poisoned.
  • Helping someone who is in anaphylactic shock (allergic reactions).
  • Recognising the presence of major illness and provide appropriate first aid (including heart attack, stroke, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes).

For Emergency first aid at work, the training and assessment should be at least six hours (not including breaks) over a minimum period of one day.

The syllabus should include topics relating to:

  • Preventing cross-infection.
  • Recording incidents and actions.
  • Use of available equipment.
  • Assess the situation and circumstances in order to act safely, promptly and effectively in an emergency.
  • Helping someone who is unresponsive (including seizure).
  • Giving CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator.
  • Helping someone who is choking.
  • Helping someone who is bleeding.
  • Helping someone who is suffering from shock.
  • Helping someone who has minor injuries (including small cuts, grazes and bruises, minor burns and scalds, small splinters).

When training is complete, learners should be able to demonstrate competency in the above subject areas.


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Issues compliant first aid certificates

Training organisations should only issue certificates to learners that they have assessed as competent. Learners must demonstrate satisfactory knowledge, skill and understanding in all aspects of the training course.

Valid certificates must state:

  • The name of the training organisation.
  • The candidate’s name.
  • The qualification title (eg FAW or EFAW).
  • That the certificate has been issued for the purposes of the Health and Safety (first aid) Regulations (1981) and Health and Safety (first aid) (amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017.
  • That the certificate is valid for three years.
  • The commencement date.
  • That teaching was delivered in accordance with currently accepted first-aid practice.
  • An outline of the topics covered if the qualification is neither FAW nor EFAW, or an outline of any additional elements covered if applicable. This may be on the reverse of the certificate or as an appendix.

With so many first aid training providers in the UK, it can be challenging to know who to select. But the variety of providers and course options means you’re able to make a choice that not only meets, but maybe even exceeds, your needs.

Remember, meeting the due diligence criteria should just be the beginning of your checks. You’ll also need to carry out additional checks to make sure that they’re a good fit for your workplace needs.

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HSE Regulations