first aid case

Emergency First Aid at Work – What does a First Aider do?

Updated: February 2021

First Aid is the help given to someone who is injured or ill, to keep them safe until they can get more advanced medical treatment by seeing a doctor, health professional or go to hospital.

The role of a first aider is to give someone practical and emotional help, while making sure that they and anyone else involved are safe and that they don’t make the situation worse.

What are the responsibilities of a first aider?

This is best summarised by the three “Ps” of first aid which are:

  1. Preserve Life – Doing immediate practical actions that save the life of the casualty. This includes making sure the area is safe for you, the casualty and bystanders in order to prevent further casualties.
  2. Prevent worsening – Protecting the casualty from further harm by administering appropriate first aid and monitoring their vital signs.
  3. Promote Recovery – Continued monitoring and lots of reassurance will aid their recovery. Casualties who are well looked after emotionally will be less anxious and recover better after their ordeal.

What are the responsibilities when dealing with an emergency situation?

A first aider should:

  • Manage the incident and ensure the continuing safety of themselves, bystanders and the casualty
  • Assess casualties and find out the nature & cause of their injuries
  • Arrange for further medical help or other emergency services to attend
  • If trained, prioritise casualties based upon medical need
  • Provide appropriate first aid treatment as trained
  • If able, make notes/observations of casualties
  • Provide a handover when further medical help arrives
  • Fill out any paperwork as required

The first aider is to provide immediate, lifesaving, medical care before the arrival of further medical help. This could include performing procedures such as:

  • Placing an unconscious casualty into the recovery position
  • Performing Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Using an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Stopping bleeding using pressure and elevation
  • Keeping a fractured limb still

What are the legal responsibilities?

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require all employers, including the self-employed, to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment, facilities and trained people so employees can be given immediate first aid treatment if they are injured or taken ill at work.

What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in your workplace. The minimum first aid provision on any work site is a suitably stocked first aid kit and an appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements. It is important to remember that accidents and illness can happen at any time. Provision for first aid needs to be available at all times when people are at work. This includes when driving or working away from site.

Employers are required to undertake a First Aid Needs Assessment to work out what level of cover (number of trained first aiders) and what type of course those first aiders should attend. To help you determine this, we have a free Risk Assessment on our website that you can use. You can access this and other useful resources here:

Employers are also increasingly undertaking Mental Health first Aid training for staff. Mental Health First Aid is an initial response to distress and all participants on the course understand that this help is given only until other suitable or professional help can be found.

Do you want to learn more about how to deliver First Aid?

We currently have spaces on our Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) courses on variety of dates and locations throughout the country. These courses are open to everyone and attendees will gain an Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificate that lasts for 3 years. The course includes all of the HSE syllabus for EFAW courses and Appointed Persons. This including dealing with accidents in the workplace, cardiac arrest CPR, heart attacks and how to use a life saving AED Defibrillator, bleeding and much more. The first aid training course will qualify you to be the first aider in the workplace and deal with incidents as required by the law.

To find out more click on our course calendar here.