How we are safely teaching first aid during COVID-19

So much has changed over the last six months. We stopped training courses in March as COVID-19 cases peaked and we started to run first aid courses again in September.

I thought it would be worth letting our customers (you) know how we are mitigating against COVID and any potential cross-contamination on first aid courses.

But before we begin talking about how we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we need to refresh our mind about how it is spread. The virus responsible for COVID-19 is spread most often via inhaling small droplets in the air produced by coughing or sneezing, or via touching a contaminated surface and then touching the face. On a first aid training course a group of people must be close, so it is an activity that carries an inherent risk, but we can greatly reduce any risk by taking some simple precautions.

Before the Course

Social distancing and ventilation is key

In order to protect learners, we prepare throughly before the course begins:

  • Pick a Suitable Venue: We book a venue which is large enough to allow for social distancing. This means a room which is 10 metres by 10 metres for a group of 12 people, with good ventilation where possible.
  • Screen Attendees: We select students for the course according to risk taking into account risk factors such as; gender, ethnicity, age and underlying medical conditions.
  • Register Online: All students complete online registration and read information on COVID signs and symptoms. This encourages students to self-isolate (and not attend) if they are symptomatic.
  • Attendee Responsibilities: Attendees must also help prevent the spread of COVID by bringing a face mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser with them.

Course Arrival

Registration desk and temperature checking

On arrival, our trainers will set up a registration table at the entrance to the training groom. At this table, attendees are asked to put on a face mask, sign the register and their temperature is taken. Anyone with a high temperature will be excluded from the course. After a temperature check, learners are asked to sanitise their hands.

Next, learners enter the training room and sit in seats 2m apart. Once seated, learners are socially distanced and can remove their masks. Where possible trainers will make sure the training room has good ventilation by opening windows and doors.

All the learners are then asked to listen to a standard COVID statement which covers some basic mitigation measures including:

  • Advising students that if they need to cough and/or sneeze that they should do so into a disposable tissue (which should then be immediately disposed of) or the bend of their elbow.
  • Explaining to students not to touch their face, unless they have just washed or sanitised their hands.
  • Asking students to maintain their distance (2m/6ft) between each other and where close contact is unavoidable face masks must be used.

During the Course

During theory sessions when the trainer is at the front of the room and learners are seated 2m apart there is no need to wear masks unless the learners want to. However, for the practical sessions, there are several mitigations in place:

  • When pairing up learners for practical demonstrations, learners are encouraged to work with the same person throughout the day, especially if they work together normally
  • Where physical contact is required (for example when practising the recovery position), learners and the trainer are required to put on their face masks and sanitise their hands before the practical activity and then when they return to their seats they take off their face masks and re-sanitise their hands which should minimise the risk of cross-contamination
  • When it comes to CPR manikin hygiene each student is given their face to use on the manikin. That way there is no risk of the virus spreading when learners are demonstrating how to do rescue breaths in CPR. Although this sounds simple, swapping the face on a CPR manikin isn’t simple and some of the learners found the process of swapping faces harder than doing CPR!
  • At break time learners are asked to use their own mugs and use soap and warm water to wash their hands.

After the Course

There are a number of ways to prevent COVID transmission on first aid equipment, including:

  • Quarantine all first aid equipment used on a course for 72 hours: The virus can’t live for more than 72 hours so if it has been stored dry a simple quarantine could be used.
  • Clean all equipment throughly: On the first aid courses I have been running I have also been taking the jackets off my CPR manikins and washing them, with the manikin faces, in the washing machine. Cleaning the manikins themselves in the shower with soap and water and yes getting strange looks from my partner! Cotton triangular bandages are also being washed between courses.

Summary

Having now run several courses using our wide range of mitigation measures, I believe we have appropriate measures in place on our first aid courses to minimise the risk within the group we are working with. We will continue to review these measures as government and scientific guidance changes.

If you do have any questions about how we’re keeping learners safe or are anxious about your upcoming first aid course, do get in touch.

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