Choosing First Aiders at Work
Under the First Aid at Work Regulations employers have to offer (amongst other things) First Aid personnel or as they are more commonly known First Aiders. Training for First Aid has changed in the past few years, but the First Aider saves lives or prevents people getting worse until the cavalry arrive, that is, the ambulance. In most workplaces First Aiders tend to get lumbered with anything faintly resembling or linking to health matters.
I have asked First Aiders to:
- check the eyewash stations
- be responsible people and check health conditions
- replenish the first aid stocks
- keep an eye on workers with health conditions that may deteriorate at work
- escort ill people home
- take photographs of the workplace when I am unable to get there
- become health champions for health promotion campaigns
- give feedback on workplace issues
- collect statistics on workplace exposures, e.g., reporting of skin problems or headaches
Most First Aiders love what they do, and some have even gone on to become professionals – doctors and nurses; having the first aid training opened up a whole new career for them.
Rarely you come across a poorly trained and unmotivated First Aider, so this article will help you choose someone who could be the only person between life and death for your workers.
So, to make sure you get the right people, I have put together a list of what I think are the most important points to consider when choosing your First Aider:
Many workplaces I have worked pay First Aiders, this varies from an annual bonus payment or extra days holidays. The payment is a recognition of their contribution for taking the job on. There is also the incentives of training programmes and meetings taking the First Aider away from their regular work. Be careful though that this is not the main reason a worker volunteered
Workers who don’t trust a First Aider won’t tell them about their personal health issues, fearing they will tell the factory or office. Health is a sensitive subject, and often First Aiders need to know about health issues such as epilepsy, diabetes, so they know what to do in an emergency. Volunteer first aiders must keep a secret and not be intrusive into others affairs.
First Aiders must pass a written and practical examination, some people will have issues with this side of the training, so it needs explaining at interview
Do not choose employees who are essential workers in their area or have difficulty being released for work, e.g., wearing personal protective equipment or supervisors. These take a long time responding to an emergency as they try to get someone to relieve them or climb out of their spacesuit; they would not be right due to their job role.
Also, look at absence records to make volunteer First Aiders are reliable. Shift workers are needed for weekends and night work and don’t forget holiday cover. Will the volunteer be available? And are there enough First Aiders to cover.
5. Calm in an emergency
The one thing an ill or injured person wants is someone who is calm, confident and able to take charge in an emergency.
Is the worker likely to do the job of the First Aider properly and keep in the boundaries of training? Ask their current Manager or Supervisor about the personality and suitability of the volunteer for First Aid duties.
Assess the First Aiders need for vaccinations, e.g., Tetanus and Hepatitis B by considering the risks involved in the work. If required make arrangements with the GP or an occupational health service, remember the employer has to pay for this
Is the First Aid able to do CPR, do they have the ability to climb ladders, kneel on floors? Are they scared of blood (I once met a nurse who fainted at the sight of blood – really and truly)? The capability of a person is a real issue when choosing a First Aider.
Companies spend a lot of time and money on training First Aiders. Chose long-standing employees over recently started workers
Continue to check and watch your First Aiders by:
- Review and debrief after incidents to both injured party and first aider
- Check that all the paperwork is completed as necessary
- Have regular first aid meetings for sharing and relaying messages
Further Advice and Reading
- Guidance document on First Aid at Work free download from HSE
- Download the latest guidance on CPR from Resuscitation Council here
- Download my FA policy and risk assessment (First Aid Policy WWS (editable) or First Aid Policy (PDF)