First aid is the immediate help given to someone who is ill or injured. A first aider gives this immediate help to the casualty, while making sure that the casualty and those around the casualty (including themselves) are safe.
Sometimes an injury is minor and a workplace first aider can manage this without further help. For example, injuries such as minor burns, cuts and bruises.
For more serious injuries, the first aider must reassure the the casualty while they are waiting for medical help to arrive, either by a doctor, a medical professional or going to hospital.
In an emergency, first aider responsibilities are:
- Manage the incident and ensure the continuing safety of themselves, bystanders and the casualty
- Assess any casualties and discover the nature & cause of their injuries or illnesses
- Arrange for further medical help or other emergency services to attend. Usually by making an emergency phone call to 999 (in the UK) or 112 (worldwide).
- If trained, prioritise casualty treatment based upon medical need
- Provide appropriate first aid treatment that they have been trained to do, and that is reasonable in the circumstances
- If able, make notes and record observations of casualties, ideally monitoring Vital Signs, and SAMPLE information
- Provide a handover when further medical help arrives
- Fill out any paperwork as required following the incident
The first aider is to provide immediate, potentially 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. Learn how to do this here, in our short video.
- Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- Using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
- Stopping bleeding using pressure and elevation
- Keeping a fractured limb still and supported
A first aider’s overall priority should be to preserve life. Other aims of first aid include preventing the worsening of the patient’s condition and to promote recovery.
Responsibilities of a ‘workplace’ first aider
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment, facilities and people. To enable your employees to be given immediate help 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. Being an ‘appointed person’ for first aid is a responsibility not to be undertaken lightly. First Aid Training Co-operative would recommend that an ‘Appointed Person” has a minimal level of first aid training such as an Emergency First Aid qualification.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that it is up to the employer to carry out a First Aid Hazard Assessment, to identify what the requirements are for their specific situation.
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. These includes when driving or working away from site. The HSE expects that every vehicle, company or personal, used by someone whilst at work or for the purposes of the job role, contains a first aid kit.
Responsibilities of a ‘alternative workplace’ first aider
There are many workplaces that don’t fit into the standard description of a workplace. These workers may work in more unusual circumstances, but the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 still apply.
What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances of your particular workplace. Remember it is up to the employer to carry out a First Aid Hazard Assessment, to identify what the requirements are for their specific situation.
What would be considered ‘adequate’ first aid cover on a building site, in a school, or in a shop will be very different. Hence the first aid cover required, and the responsibilities of the first aiders in each situation will vary accordingly. HSE has now issued a series of case studies to help employers decide what element of first aid cover their organisation requires.
Responsibilities of a ‘duty of care’ first aider
First Aid cover is generally required anywhere where there is deemed to be a duty of care in place. This can also include more informal situations, where the first aider is a volunteer leader, at a community sports club, or organised social event.
Where an event or activity has been organised under the banner of a particular group, there is an ‘assumed duty of care’. Therefore a first aider has the same responsibility as if it were a workplace setting.
Responsibilities of a ‘mental health’ first aider
So far, we have been describing the situation for physical first aid situations. Increasingly employers are thinking about the mental health welfare of their employees and the HSE recognizes this. The HSE says employers should now consider having mental health first aid care available. Take a look at our 2-day Mental Health First Aid course which this new HSE guidance.