By Derek Cawkwell, Wolters Kluwer’s Croner Regional Health and Safety Consultant,

For some time now, it has no longer been a requirement to approve first aid training courses; however this has left employers wondering how to determine their first aid needs. Experience in this field has revealed some useful answers to this question.

Various Wolters Kluwer clients have received faxes promising low-cost first aid training delivered on site in a matter of a few hours. Caution should be exercised when considering such offers. All employers have a duty to ensure the competence of any contractor and the suitability and adequacy of the services they offer, including those provided for training purposes. Such training is unlikely to be an effective substitute for the full first aid courses that are still on offer from well-known providers.

Further, a number of clients have been asked by Enforcement Officers for sight of the risk assessment which determines their first aid needs. There is nothing new in the need for an assessment; the requirement is contained within the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981. However, in practice, it seemed that the majority of Enforcement Officers previously used a “common sense” approach which involved comparing the number of trained staff against the profile of the company and either agreeing or making recommendations.

So, if you must assess your needs, what criteria do you need to examine? A great deal of help is available in the HSE publication INDG 214 First Aid at Work – Your Questions Answered, but first we must clarify the three levels of trained staff that are provided:

• An Appointed Person: a person nominated to take charge of any accident in a work place that is very low risk and has no history of significant incidents.

• An Emergency First Aider: a person who has undergone the one-day training course in Emergency First Aid at Work.

• A First Aider: a person who has undergone First Aid at Work training over three days and is qualified to treat a wider range of injuries than an emergency first aider.

The following are factors to consider during your risk assessment:

• Whether your workplace has low or high level hazards

• How many persons are employed

• Whether any of your employees are inexperienced, disabled or they have any health problems

• The types of injuries/illnesses that have occurred as a result of work

• Whether you have any staff working alone or remotely, or if there is any shift/out-of-hours’ work

• Whether the premises are spread out

• The location of the workplace in relation to the emergency services

• If you have staff working on other employers’ sites

• You have cover for all work patterns and you allow for absence of trained first aiders

• Whether the public visit your workplace.

If you have concluded that your workplace is low or high hazard, the following guidance may apply, relating the number of trained staff to the number of employees: