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First aid at work regulation changes

29 July 2009

On 1 October 2009 new guidelines for First aid at work will come into place, the first change in over 25 years. It is important that workplaces are equipped and staff appropriately trained, as Richard Evans from St John Ambulance explains

In June, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released figures showing a decline in workplace deaths in the year 2008/9. The 180 deaths recorded between April 2008 and March 2009 during that time period compared with 233 fatalities in 2007/8 reveal an achievement in workplace welfare in the UK and how taking health and safety seriously can make the difference between life and death.

But there is still some way to go to ensure workplaces stay truly safe. Before announcing the upcoming changes in April 2009, the HSE carried out an evaluation of first aid in the workplace and found that although awareness was good, compliance was usually to a minimum. This basic compliance lacked a full consideration of the needs of the workplace and its responsibility to staff and customers or clients. Through the evaluation, deficiencies were revealed in the content and format of the regulations and so they’ve developed new guidance, in consultation with first aid organisations such as St John Ambulance, which aims to rectify these problems.

What the changes mean

1. The four day First aid at work (FAW) course will be shortened to three days as of 1 October and is, generally speaking, aimed at higher risk premises. The content will be similar to the four day course, but recent streamlining of first aid protocols mean that students need to spend less time away from work. Courses run by approved providers and their trainers mean that the teaching techniques used will ensure students will continue to be trained to meet HSE standards.

2. The two day FAW requalification to be taken within three years of initial training will remain unchanged.

3. A new qualification of Emergency first aider in the workplace (EFAW) that will come into effect in October will require a one day training course and is, on the whole, aimed at lower risk workplaces.

Research has shown that life saving skills fade with time and that having regular refreshers of first aid knowledge is valuable. Students are recommended by the HSE to attend a three hour Annual refresher (AR) course to prevent 'skills fade' in addition to the FAW and EFAW courses, and ensures a greater standard of care in the workplace.

Know your level of risk

So how can you be sure you already have the appropriate level of first aid cover? St John Ambulance suggests two steps: Firstly, review your current level of cover, this includes first aid equipment as well as your level of first aid training; Secondly, check the HSE’s first aid risk assessment table. This will match your company size and industry sector to further key information, such as the number of floors you use; do you have holiday cover for your first aiders and is vital first aid equipment sited in the right place?

You can do this simply by answering a set of short questions in our online First aid review. You’ll then receive a free report, indicating if your workplace currently complies with HSE regulations and if not, the steps needed to comply with regulations.

Another new tool is the Workplace wizard. This takes you through the current first aid risk assessment table to offer you an initial recommendation for the number of first aiders in your workplace. There is also advice to help you choose the right course.

The online guides are available click here  with the option to sign up for email updates on how the HSE’s changes will affect your organisation

What staff learn on First aid at work courses

Staff are given the knowledge to handle first aid emergencies including choking, resuscitation and a range of injuries and sudden illnesses. Importantly, staff are given the confidence to carry out first aid procedures in addition to training in using a first aid kit and reporting protocols. St John Ambulance’s First Aid at work (HSE approved) course, covers the practical skills needed by a first aider in the modern workplace. First aiders are also offered the chance to learn how to use Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), which are used to shock the heart in the event of a cardiac arrest.

It’s anticipated that the forthcoming changes to First aid at work will result in a further decline in workplace injuries. The latest reduction in the number of fatalities is excellent news, but 180 deaths are still 180 too many, so it’s essential we all strive to make our workplaces even safer by following the new guidelines to the letter. If you’re in any doubt how to make your workplace safer, just contact the experts.

St John Ambulance trains half a million people each year and is accredited by the SAFEcontractor scheme, which recognises excellence in health and safety practise.

Richard Evans, Director of Training and Marketing, St John Ambulance

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