By Clive James, Training Development Manager, St John Ambulance

Do you know how many people are first aid trained in your business? It’s likely that it’s not enough. Many employers still see first aid as a tick-box exercise, often considering it to be the responsibility of their named first aider. But what if there is a first aid emergency and the first aider isn’t around — perhaps they are on holiday or out of the office at a meeting?

Even though it has been over a year since the HSE simplified changes to workplace safety , businesses are still failing to meet the reccomended guidelines. A St John Ambulance survey found that a staggering 79% of businesses can report periods of time when no first aider is present. Not only is this a breach of regulation, that states you should allow for planned absence, it’s also a risk to employees safety.

With a blocked airway, for example, you have four minutes to live yet it takes on average eight minutes for an ambulance to respond to an emergency. It is therefore important for more workers, if not all, to be competent in first aid to minimise these gaps. For example, our research shows that 59% of people wouldn’t feel confident in an emergency situation, yet knowledge of these key basic skills can be the difference between life and death. Armed with the correct information, more employees would be keen to have these life-saving skills.

Businesses are always eager to ensure that their benefit packages are as attractive as possible and many companies will do a variety of things to enrich employees’ lives, from language lessons to cycle schemes. As many businesses look to expand their benefit package, it could be argued that first aid should be added. Many employees are offered a gym membership or free breakfast as an extra incentive to boost health and wellbeing, yet we have found that in fact 59% of people would be keen to receive first aid training at work.

First aid training can build self-esteem, improve team work as well as offer benefits to employees in their home life — and to society in general. Alister Fulton, for example, learnt first aid at work through a St John Ambulance course set up by his employer, thinking that it might be a useful skill to protect his colleagues in a time of need. In fact, Alister used this crucial skill to save a very important life - that of his four year old daughter. Because of his first aid training, Alister knew exactly what to do when she choked on a coin.

The inclusion of first aid training in workplace benefits would not only change how first aid is viewed by employers and employees but would no doubt increase the number of workers equipped with this set of key skills. If businesses treated training as an employee benefit rather than a time consuming burden, a safer working environment could be guaranteed for thousands of employees. This can lead to increased employee morale and a better commercial reputation — and from a financial viewpoint, the time and money invested into such training can often be far smaller than the time and money spent in the aftermath of a serious accident.

For more information on our health and safety training courses, please visit St John Ambulance website: www.sja.org.uk/training or call 0844 324 5535.