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First Aid Training for Work

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 27 Aug 2020 | comments*Discuss
First Aid Workplace Business First Aider

In small low risk businesses (like offices and shops), there is no legal requirement to have a trained first-aider.

But having a first aider in the workplace can mitigate the effects of injury or illness - and could well save a life.

All employers have a legal responsibility towards their workers and must have a well stocked first aid kit and an ‘appointed person’ to take charge of any first aid incidents.

You must also make staff aware of first aid arrangements (such as location of the first aid kit) and this must cater for people who don’t speak English or have reading difficulties.

Under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, revised in October 2009, all employers have a duty to provide adequate first-aid arrangements for employees and this includes small businesses (less than five employees) and the self-employed.

However, the rules are more strict for larger workplaces or those with higher risks so it cannot be stressed strongly enough that an assessment should be done to calculate the number of first-aiders needed.

If you are a small, low risk business then your ‘appointed person’ does NOT need first aid training (although you might like to enrol them on an emergency first aid course.)

Their responsibilities are only to look after first aid equipment and to call the emergency services when needed. (In a larger workplace, an appointed person can be used for emergency cover when a first-aider is unavailable because of unforeseen circumstances.)

If you have 25-50 employees, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that you have at least one person trained in Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW). In workplaces with a higher number of employees, it is recommended that you have one fully trained first-aider for every 100 workers.

While an emergency first aider should have a certificate in EFAW from a recognised organisation, a first-aider should undertake extra training for a certificate in First Aid at Work (FAW.)

However, first aid provision needs to take account of BOTH the size of your business and the risks involved.

For example, an employer with only six employees will need someone trained in EFAW or even a fully qualified first-aider if it is a higher risk workplace (such as warehousing, manufacturing or a business using machinery).

It’s also important to remember that additional rules apply to some workplaces such as offshore facilities, mines and quarries and other high risk occupations.


Certificates in either FAW or EFAW can be issued by an HSE approved training organisation and are valid for 3 years.

Many first aiders also go on annual refresher training courses. These are not compulsory but are highly recommended by the HSE to keep skills up-to-date.

Choosing a First-Aider

Employers should try to find a reliable person with good communication skills. Ideally, a first-aider is someone who works well under pressure and doesn’t panic.

It is also important that their usual work allows them to respond immediately to an incident. Responsibilities of a qualified first-aider include:

  • Being in charge of first-aid equipment and facilities
  • Caring for employees with minor injuries/illnesses such as cuts and burns, stomach bugs and headaches
  • Calling an ambulance in an emergency
  • Providing immediate help for serious injuries or illnesses, such as collapse

An employer’s first aid responsibility only covers workers. There is no duty to provide first-aid provision for non-workers, such as members of the public. However, the HSE says many places (such as shopping centres, airports, schools, fairground and entertainment centres) include the public in their assessment of first aid needs and this is strongly recommended.

What Should be in a First Aid Kit?

There is no set list of contents for a workplace first aid kit. You should stock your first aid kit based on likely hazards.

For example, a bakery would require different contents to a chemicals factory since typical accidents would differ. Employers should assess the workplace and choose items which are likely to be in demand.

That said, it is recommended that as a minimum, a low-hazard workplace first-aid kit should include:

  • Triangular bandages
  • Safety pins
  • Disposable gloves
  • Medium and large sterile, unmedicated wound dressings
  • Individually wrapped sterile plasters (hypoallergenic plasters may be needed)
  • Sterile eye patches
  • Leaflet giving basic first aid advice
Expiry dates should be checked (especially on sterile items) and all items should be re-stocked regularly. Extra items are often useful including scissors, tweezers and eye baths. If there is no running water available, you should provide bottled sterile water for eye irrigation.

If an employee carries their own medicines, a first-aider can help them to use it but first aiders should NOT give out tablets or medicines and you should not keep them in your first-aid kit. (The ONLY exception to this is aspirin which can be stocked and given for a suspected heart attack.)

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[Add a Comment]
Hi I work in well known department store,I have recently been told we have no first aider and it isn’t against the law?we have many staff, it doesn’t sound right to me
Jj - 27-Aug-20 @ 7:04 AM
My employer is trying to force me to become a first aider unless I volunteer to do it, is this legal? Can I actually be forced to do it if I refuse?
Kev - 28-Mar-19 @ 3:15 PM
Hi I work for a large company with quite a few first aiders i am one of them, last October i broke my ankle at work and i am still seeing a physiotherapist and still havent fully recovered. I have just found out today that i have been made first response to any accident is this legal as i still havent recovered myself
pau - 27-Jun-18 @ 8:09 AM
My employer has 11 employees in manufacturing sector. We have heavy machines like drills, mills, welding and compressed air on site and we are dealing with heavy part shipments where items are loaded on the lorry with forklift. Currently we have standard first aid kit and eyewash kit at work but do we need a full time first aider at the premises all the time?
Erpu - 21-Feb-18 @ 8:25 PM
I employ a sole charge groom/gardener/handyman on a private estate. He is my only employee. We have a first aid kit. Am I legally required to make any further first aid provision?
JK - 31-May-17 @ 10:17 AM
rob - Your Question:
Advice please,,,,can my employer force me to become a first-aider at work,,,i suffer from stress and I am physically disabled.

Our Response:
It is important that employers choose suitable and people (aged over 18) for first aider roles as the duties of an appointed person or first aider can be physically and mentally demanding. If you feel you are not up to the role, then you should discuss this with your employer directly. If you are reluctant, it is highly unlikley your employer would 'force' you to become a first aider, as the willingness of the employee is an important factor when choosing an appointed person.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 30-Nov-16 @ 10:04 AM
Advice please,,,,can my employer force me to become a first-aider at work,,,i suffer from stress and i am physically disabled.
rob - 29-Nov-16 @ 1:46 PM
The company i work for wants me to be a first aider but are keaving it to me to arrange, how much would it be, iwork in warehouse and distribution and there are 6 of us and 1 part time cleaner, mark
Coppo - 3-Nov-16 @ 6:41 PM
@curious - The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and people so your employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work. You can find out more via the HSE link here. I hope this helps.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Apr-15 @ 10:27 AM
I was at a pub the other day and asked for a plaster but they didn't have any. Their first aid box only has a bandage in it and was wondering if this was illegal as they do not have enough equipment. The pub is a small local pub.
curious - 17-Apr-15 @ 10:33 AM
@Law Breaker - I have included a direct link to the HSE legislation on the subject, which I hope will help, link here . If you have any further concerns as to the legality of your employer, you can contact the HSE directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 16-Feb-15 @ 12:53 PM
I have just found out that the first aider in my work he has not had his refresher for the last 5 months so there is no one covering our first aid. The factory has 15 other workers and we are a manufacturing company. Is this illegal for me to be working on a daily basis? I need advice.
Law breaker - 13-Feb-15 @ 5:06 PM
I work on a dive vessel on a day rate contract. What are my rights if I was to fall pregnant?
spammy87 - 22-Sep-14 @ 1:29 PM
question that i need some help with (1)Can first aid training be adopted by any workplace. And what response procedure should be taken when a accident occur at workplace.
marcus - 8-Feb-14 @ 12:08 AM
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