Innovation and enterprise blog

28 July 2020

First aid and health and safety essential changes due to COVID-19

Health and safety for your business has never been more important, than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each business sector has guidance of some kind to try and keep their staff and customers safe from infection. Innovating for Growth: Scale-up alumna, Emma Hammett, founder of First Aid for Life talks through what you should be aware of...

Usual HSE requirements concerning first aid remain applicable to everyone and all businesses. Whether a sole trader, or major corporate, we all have a legal requirement to make appropriate first aid provision for our employees.

It remains the law for all businesses to undertake a suitable risk assessment and ensure staff:

  1. undertake suitable first aid (and mental health first aid) training
  2. have an appropriate and in-date first-aid qualification
  3. attend regular refreshers to update skills and remain competent to perform their first aid role
  4. remain abreast of the latest advice from the Resuscitation Council UK, concerning any changes to resuscitation guidance.

Risk assessments

Businesses need to undertake physical risk assessments to assess hazards for the workplace and address any specific risks relevant to their workforce. These risk assessments should encompass measures to protect the physical and mental health well-being of their employees. Following COVID-19, these risk assessments need to consider additional infection risk and safety requirements concerning coronavirus.

First-aid provision for non-employees

Health and safety law does not require businesses to provide first aid cover for anyone other than their own employees. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, additional requirements require essential proven measures to be put in place to protect everyone from possible infection. There are new powers to enforce this and businesses can be closed if not compliant.
It is critical for businesses to demonstrate a clear duty of care to staff and customers alike.

Additional training

Good first aid training businesses will help you establish your first aid provision and assist you in arranging the most appropriate training for your organisation, tailoring and adding in extra elements if required.

The HSE strongly recommends all first aid training to be annually refreshed with practical or online training.

The HSE also recommend training in mental health first aid.

First Aid for Life provides practical and online first aid and mental health first aid courses.

Giving CPR during the COVID-19 pandemic

Resuscitating an adult

Whenever CPR is carried out, there is some risk of cross infection, particularly when giving rescue breaths. Normally, this risk is very small and is set against the inevitability that a person in cardiac arrest will die if not helped.

The Resuscitation Council UK has issued the following updated guidance concerning the giving of CPR to an adult whilst there remains a risk of infection from coronavirus:

  • Recognise cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing.
  • No longer listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, start chest compressions until help arrives.
  • Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID-19 is suspected, tell them when you call 999.
  • If there is a perceived risk of infection, place a cloth/towel over the victim’s mouth and nose. Start compression only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance arrives.

Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection.

Paediatric CPR

Breaths are still recommended when giving CPR to a baby or child, as the breaths are more critical to the likelihood of them surviving. It is far more likely that they have had a respiratory arrest and they do not retain oxygenated blood in their system for as long as an adult. Therefore, it is important that staff receive appropriate additional training if paediatric CPR is a possibility. Rescuer protection such as pocket masks, airway adjuncts and bag and valve masks should be available to appropriately trained first aiders.

Resuscitating a child

Protection for first aiders

If the rescuer has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. FFP3 face mask, disposable gloves, eye protection), they should wear them.

After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; or cleanse them with alcohol-based hand gel. They should also seek additional advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser.


First Aid for Life and Onlinefirstaid.com were founded by Innovating for Growth: Scale-up alumna, Emma Hammett. First Aid for Life is a fully regulated provider of multi award-winning first aid and mental health first aid.