What employers must do to protect first aiders

First aiders are likely to be at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the close contact they may have with individuals. Provision of first aid should be considered in the COVID-19 risk assessment.

Measures to protect the first aider should follow the hierarchy of control, using methods such as physical distancing, physical barriers, alternative working practices and, as a final measure, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employers and their first aiders should take account of the specific guidance on giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from the Resuscitation Council UK.

What happens if there are no first aiders in the workplace?

Despite lockdown easing and people returning to workplaces, attendance in offices and on site is likely to be low for some time to come. Employers will need to consider how first aid provision will be maintained during these periods of low attendance. First aid arrangements will need to be maintained at all times, although provision may only be basic.

Employers will need to revisit their first aid needs assessment alongside the COVID risk assessment, as it is likely that the first aid requirements will be different in the return to work phase. The needs assessment will establish what first aid provision is required, specifically whether the risk in the workplace warrants a full first aider on site. Employers should seek the views of first aiders in this process.

Where the needs assessment indicates that a first aider is unnecessary, as a minimum the employer must appoint a person to take charge of first aid arrangements. This person is known as an “appointed person”.

There should be an appointed person on site whenever people are in the workplace. The responsibilities of the appointed person are basic, and include looking after the first aid equipment and facilities and calling the emergency services when required. Appointed persons do not need first aid training.

Even if full first aiders are deemed necessary by the needs assessment, the regulations provide flexibility for circumstances when first aiders are absent in “temporary and exceptional” circumstances. In those cases the employer will still need to have an appointed person on site.

The Health and Safety Executive has more information on first aid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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