How to Ensure Your First Aiders are Correctly Trained

First aiders need to act confidently, promptly and correctly should they be called into action. They may need to make instant decisions that can have far reaching consequences for the well-being of the person that’s injured or unwell. Training is therefore crucial: read on to find out how best to deliver it and how to choose a provider.

For training, the choice boils down to three main options:

(1) national providers such as St John Ambulance (, British Red Cross ( and, in Scotland, St Andrew’s

(2) local providers (many safety training providers also offer first aid courses), and

(3) for large organisations, an in-house trainer. The advantages of each option are set out below:

Advantages of the 3 Main Training Provider Options

National Providers

  • National network of trainers. ‘One stop shop’ able to cover all locations.
  • Run both public and ‘on your site’ training.
  • Central quality assurance (QA) and updating procedures.
  • Able to offer examples from other organisations.

Local Providers

  • Convenient to you, minimising travel/accommodation on-costs.
  • May run both public and ‘on your site’ training. Likely to have set  procedures for QA and updating.
  • Able to offer case study examples from other organisations.

In-house Training

  • Likely to offer maximum flexibility, as trainer is already on your site.
  • Able to provide training outside normal hours.
  • Likely to already have rapport with your first aiders.
  • In-house trainers will have best knowledge of your processes and locations.

It’s essential first aiders keep their knowledge and skills current. Certificates are typically valid for three years, after which the person needs to attend requalification training. Do therefore log when all your first aiders were trained and when their retraining falls due so that this can take place before the original certificate runs out. In addition, the HSE recommends annual refresher training to ensure first aiders remember the key points of life-saving techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Choosing a Provider
As with other types of service provider, the best guide here is a personal recommendation from someone who’s used them. When you send people on a course, always get attendee feedback and change provider if the training was dull, uninspiring or unmemorable. Key questions to ask training providers are set out below.

It’s simplest to be able to compare providers on a like-for-like basis so make sure you get an all-in price that includes not just the training but also any extras (certificates, manuals) and trainer expenses (travel and accommodation).

7 Key Questions to Ask Potential First Aid Training Providers

1. Can you provide all the training I need (including meeting any special requirements)?

2. Would you come to me or would I send my trainees to your centre?

3. How do you ensure your trainers are competent and up to date?

4. I want my first aiders to be motivated as well as informed: how would your trainers make the course both interesting to them and relevant to my organisation?

5. How do you deliver the practical side of the training, CPR for instance?

6. What procedure do you have if I am unhappy with the training my staff receive?

7. Do you have a recall system so that I am automatically prompted to arrange refresher training?

Give Additional Training for these 7 Special Situations

The HSE has identified 7 situations in which first aiders are likely to need additional training, over and above the normal training syllabus; these are set out below (key topic in brackets):

1. Where there’s extensive outdoor work, e.g. construction, trackside rail work, forestry (treating hypothermia and hyperthermia).

2. Use of hydrofluoric acid (treating hydrofluoric acid burns).

3. Chemical manufacture (managing a casualty with cyanide poisoning).

4. Confined space work such as cleaning and sewer work, or where there’s a risk of exposure to hydrogen cyanide (oxygen administration).

5. Swimming pools, fish farms (first aid for a drowning casualty).

6. You have identified a special risk, e.g. based on the known health profile, age and number of employees or the needs of members of the public (recognising and treating emergencies such as heart attack, stroke, epileptic seizure, asthma attack and diabetes).

7. Schools and nurseries (paediatric first aid).

Tip ✓
First aiders sometimes come back from training with scare stories about how they could be prosecuted if they issue any kind of medication so it’s important to set the record straight on this issue.

To stay within the law and current best practice, simply follow these three points:

(1) don’t keep any medicines in first aid boxes;

(2) first aiders can and should give aspirin in the case of a suspected heart attack;

(3) otherwise, don’t expect them to dispense pain killers or other medication.