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Ultimate Guide to First Aid

What is First Aid?

First aid refers to the immediate and initial care given to a person who has been injured or suddenly taken ill. It is the assistance provided to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening, and promote recovery until professional medical help arrives or until the individual can receive proper medical treatment. The primary goals of first aid are to:

  1. Preserve life: First aid aims to stabilise the person’s condition and prevent further harm, ensuring their vital functions are maintained until medical professionals can take over.
  2. Prevent further injury or deterioration: First aid involves actions to prevent the situation from worsening, such as controlling bleeding, immobilising fractures, or providing basic life support.
  3. Promote recovery: First aid may include measures to alleviate pain, provide comfort, and support the person’s overall well-being during the emergency.

First aid encompasses a wide range of techniques and skills, including assessing the situation, providing basic medical care, administering CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), controlling bleeding, treating burns, managing choking incidents, and more. It is a critical skill that can make a significant difference in the outcome of medical emergencies and can be applied by anyone, regardless of medical training, to help save lives and reduce suffering.

Why is First Aid Important?

First aid training is important for several reasons:

Immediate response: First aid training equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to provide immediate assistance in emergency situations. When faced with an injury, illness, or accident, trained individuals can quickly assess the situation, take appropriate actions, and provide essential care before professional medical help arrives. This prompt response can significantly increase the chances of a positive outcome and potentially save lives.

Confidence and preparedness: First aid training instils confidence in individuals to handle emergency situations effectively. By learning how to assess and respond to various medical emergencies, individuals feel prepared and empowered to take action when needed. This readiness can help overcome panic, make rational decisions, and provide the necessary care until professional help arrives.

Prevents further injury or complications: Properly administering first aid can prevent injuries from worsening and minimise the risk of complications. Knowing how to control bleeding, immobilise fractures, manage burns, or clear airways can significantly reduce the impact of an injury or illness and potentially save vital time until medical professionals take over.

Increases safety awareness: First aid training promotes safety awareness and risk assessment. By understanding potential hazards and risks in different environments, individuals can take proactive measures to prevent accidents and maintain a safer living or working environment. This proactive approach contributes to injury prevention and overall well-being.

Supportive role: First aid training extends beyond the physical aspect of care. Trained individuals can provide emotional support and reassurance to the injured or ill person, helping to reduce fear, anxiety, and distress. This supportive role can make a significant difference in the well-being and psychological recovery of the affected individuals.

Legal requirements: Employers are responsible for ensuring employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or injured at work. Appropriate first aid arrangements must be in place based on the circumstances of your business.

Community resilience: First aid training contributes to building community resilience. When more people are trained in first aid, the overall readiness of a community to respond to emergencies improves. In situations such as natural disasters or mass casualties, having trained individuals available to provide immediate assistance can make a significant difference in the overall response and recovery efforts.

Overall, first aid training is important as it empowers individuals to respond effectively during emergencies, provides life-saving skills, promotes safety awareness, and enhances the overall wellbeing and resilience of individuals and communities.

Employer Responsibilities

In the UK, The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate first aid provision in the workplace. This applies to all workplaces including the self-employed. Depending on the size and nature of the business, this may involve having designated first aiders who hold valid first aid qualifications. The exact requirements vary based on the circumstances of the workplace such as industry and the number of employees.

What employers need to do

As an employer you must ensure appropriate first-aid measures are in place at your workplace. Consider the specific circumstances, workforce, and potential health and safety hazards to determine the necessary arrangements.

In some small, low-risk workplaces, basic first-aid provisions like a first-aid kit and an appointed individual responsible for managing first-aid tasks, such as contacting emergency services and replenishing supplies, may suffice. This appointed person does not necessarily require formal first-aid training.

However, workplaces with higher health and safety risks, such as those involving machinery or hazardous materials, will likely require trained first-aid personnel.

It is mandatory to inform all employees about the details of the first-aid arrangements in place.

First Aid needs assessment

The first aid course you need depends on several factors, including your specific requirements and the level of responsibility you hold. It is important to assess your specific needs and any regulations or recommendations from your workplace or industry. Consider the level of training required, the duration of the course, and the content covered. Consulting with your employer, regulatory bodies, or professional associations in your field can help determine the appropriate first aid course for your situation.

The HSE website provides more information on carrying out a first-aid needs assessment, including a suite of example case studies and an online assessment tool to help you decide what arrangements you need to put in place for first aid.

First Aid arrangements

The outcome of your first aid needs assessment will determine the first aid arrangements required in your workplace.

As a minimum, you must have:

  • A suitably stocked first aid kit
  • An appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements
  • Information for all employees giving details of first aid arrangements

Where your needs assessment identifies workplace or workforce issues, or more significant health and safety risks, you are likely to need a sufficient number of appropriately trained first aiders and may need to arrange additional equipment and facilities.

HSE Are you an employer? – First aid at work (hse.gov.uk)

Types of First Aid Training

There are various First Aid courses designed to suit different requirements based on the outcomes of your first aid needs assessment. These range from a short 3-hour session to a full First Aid at Work course (3 days). Below are the First Aid courses we offer at Ouch:

Ouch schedule First Aid open courses regularly throughout the year at both of our venues in Wimborne, Dorset and Stockport. These are suitable for individuals or smaller numbers of people. They can also be useful if you have a large group but need them to undertake the training at different times due to work commitments.

We can also deliver in-house training at your own premises on a convenient date for you. This is most suitable for larger groups or for those looking to have training delivered to a number of people at the same time. It’s also useful for those that are based further away from our training venues as Ouch can come to your premises on a convenient date for you.

Emergency First Aid at Work or First Aid at Work?

Your first aid needs assessment outcomes will help you to determine what level of first aid training your staff require. 

The two main first aid qualifications people tend to be choosing between are:First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW). Below are some of the differences between the two: 

  • Course Duration: EFAW is a one-day course, while FAW is a more comprehensive three-day course.
  • Level of Training: EFAW provides basic first aid knowledge and skills, focusing on immediate lifesaving interventions and stabilising a person’s condition until professional help arrives. FAW offers more in-depth training, covering a broader range of first aid techniques and scenarios
  • Workplace Requirements: EFAW is suitable for low-risk workplaces with fewer employees, where a designated emergency first aider is sufficient. FAW is designed for higher-risk workplaces or those with a larger number of employees, where a more extensive level of first aid provision is required.
  • Content Coverage: EFAW typically covers basic first aid skills such as CPR, using an automated external defibrillator (AED), managing bleeding, choking, and responding to common workplace incidents. FAW encompasses these skills and includes additional topics like spinal injuries, burns, eye injuries, major illnesses, and medical emergencies.


All first aid certificates (except First Aid Annual Refresher) are valid for 3 years from the date of the course. Prior to the expiry date, first aiders will need to attend a suitable requalification course to requalify for a further 3 years. Please use our Requalification Checker to see which course you need to attend.

Once a first aid certificate has expired, the person is no longer considered competent to carryout the role of a first aider in the workplace.

It is strongly recommended that first aiders undertake annual refresher training to update their skills and knowledge.

Awarding Bodies

Ouch Learning and Development are an approved training provider for first aid by both The First Aid Industry Body (FAIB) and Highfield (HABC). Both certificates are accepted by HSE inspectors, Department of Education and OFSTED inspectors.


Created in 2012, FAIB fits all the requirements of the Professor Lofsted review of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and gives the assurance to every Employer about our Standards that are required by their Training Organisations within the First Aid Training Industry.


A global leader in compliance and work-based learning and apprenticeship qualifications and one of the UK’s most recognisable awarding organisations. Highfield are regulated by Ofqual, Qualifications Wales, SQA Accreditation, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), and the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

Workplace First Aid Kits

As an employer, you should provide at least one first aid kit per workplace (larger sites may require more). The contents of the first aid kit should be determined by your first aid needs assessment. Each first aid kits must have a sufficient quantity of items suitable for the circumstances of your workplace.

In the UK, the contents of a workplace first aid kit should be based on a thorough assessment of the workplace’s specific risks and the number of employees present. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidelines on the minimum contents for a workplace first aid kit. As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, a minimum stock of first-aid items might be:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid
  • 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (hypoallergenic plasters can be provided if necessary)
  • two sterile eye pads
  • two individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile
  • six safety pins
  • two large, sterile, individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings
  • six medium-sized sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings
  • at least three pairs of disposable gloves

Employers may wish to refer to British Standard BS 8599 which provides further information on the contents of workplace first-aid kits. Whether using a first aid kit complying with BS 8599 or an alternative kit, the contents should reflect the outcome of the first aid needs assessment.

It is important to note that this is a general list, and the specific requirements may vary depending on the workplace and industry. It is advisable to conduct a workplace risk assessment and consult the appropriate regulatory bodies or health and safety professionals to determine the exact contents of a first aid kit based on your specific workplace needs.

Accidents and Ill-Health

The HSE advise the following information in relation to accidents or ill-health: Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents, and cases of work-related disease. You can find out which ones must be reported and how to report them on the HSE report an incident pages. RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the Responsible Person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses). Keeping records will help you to identify patterns in the incidence of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment. Your insurance company may also want to see your records if there is a work-related claim. HSE Are you an employer? – First aid at work (hse.gov.uk)

Further Information and Guidance

The HSE provides comprehensive guidance on first aid in the workplace, including regulations, guidance documents, and frequently asked questions.