Should I review my workplace first aid arrangements in the light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

Should I review my workplace first aid arrangements in the light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

General first aid requirements 

An employer has a duty to make provision for first aid to ensure employees receive treatment if they are injured or are taken ill in the workplace.

In particular, you must:

• provide adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities for enabling first aid to be rendered to employees

• ensure there is an adequate and appropriate person (or number of people) to render first aid to employees

In order to establish what provision is required in your workplace and to determine what will be adequate and appropriate for your circumstances, you should carry out a first aid needs assessment—see:

• Precedent: First aid needs assessment


Impact of coronavirus on first aid arrangements

If your workplace is open during the coronavirus pandemic, you must ensure your first aid arrangements remain in compliance with your legal requirements. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic may require you to review and amend your arrangements.

The HSE has published guidance on first aid during the coronavirus outbreak, covering:

• first aid in non-healthcare settings, including needs assessments and advice for first aiders

• first aid cover and qualifications

The government has also published guidance for employers, employees and the self-employed on working safely during coronavirus, but this guidance does not specifically refer to first aid provision. For more information on workplace safety during the pandemic, see Practice Note: Coronavirus (COVID-19)—safe working in an office environment.


First aid needs assessment

You should consider refreshing your first aid needs assessment. Ask your first aiders if there are any factors that should be taken into account as part of your risk assessment, eg vulnerable workers with first aid responsibilities.

You should discuss the assessment with your first aiders. They will need to be confident about providing the right assistance and knowing what equipment they can use to minimise the risk of infection.


Advice for first aiders

The HSE guidance includes advice for first aiders. Broadly that first aiders should try to assist at a safe distance from the casualty as much as possible and minimise the time the first aider and the casualty share a breathing zone. If the casualty is capable, the first aider should tell them to do things for themselves, but ultimately treating the casualty properly should be the first concern. This may involve giving CPR—although the HSE says you should only deliver CPR by chest compressions and use of a defibrillator (if available). You should not do rescue breaths.

All employers and first aiders should also take account of the specific guidance on giving CPR and resuscitation in first aid and community settings published by the Resuscitation Council UK.

You should ensure all your first aiders understand the HSE’s best practice recommendations and have a copy of the:

HSE guidanceand

• Resuscitation Council UK guidance.



The HSE guidance recommends that the following equipment be used when giving first aid, if available:

• a fluid-repellent surgical mask

• disposable gloves

• eye protection

• apron or other suitable covering

You should therefore also review the availability of protective equipment for your first aiders and ensure they know what is available and have access to it.


First aid cover

If first aid cover for your business is reduced because of coronavirus or you can’t get the first aid training you need, you should review your first aid needs assessment and decide if you can still provide the cover needed for the workers that are present and the activities that they are doing.

You must ensure you have enough cover, but with fewer people coming into your workplace it may be safe to operate with reduced first aid cover. You could also stop higher-risk activities.

You may be able to share the first aiders of another business, provided the shared first aiders:

• have the knowledge, experience and availability to cover the first aid needs of your business

• are aware of the type of injuries or illnesses that you identified in your first aid needs assessment and are able to address them

• know enough about your workplace and first aid facilities

• would be able to get to your workplace in good time if needed

• do not compromise the cover at their other workplace by providing temporary cover at your workplace



It may be possible to get an extension for first aid certificates that expire on or after 16 March 2020, if you are unable to access requalification training because of coronavirus. The HSE guidance contains more information on this, but it is important to note that the deadline for requalification for these qualifications in England and Wales is 30 September 2020.

Refresher training can be taken online, but HSE strongly recommends that the practical elements of some qualification and requalification courses are delivered face to face, so that competency of the student can be properly assessed.

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