5 main changes to first aid training courses due to Covid-19

Written by James Reed
Jan 20, 2021

James is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

This blog was originally published on 20 January 2021 and has been updated for accuracy based on the latest guidance.

As Covid-19 restrictions ease, we continue to provide workplace first aid training in line with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP) guidance.

James Reed, Training Product Manager at British Red Cross Training outlines the top five changes that his organisation has put in place to re-assure learners and employees.

1. Health & safety at the training venue

People understandably may have concerns about their personal safety when arriving at a first aid training classroom but the health and safety of both learners and trainers remains our highest priority.

In this respect, extensive work at each of our Red Cross training venues has been undertaken to ensure compliance with hygiene and social distancing measures in line with government and industry guidelines for Covid-19. This includes each training location undergoing a rigorous health and safety risk assessment to certify them as ‘Covid-19 secure’.

On arrival at our venues, learners can expect to see appropriate Covid-19 signage in the reception, training and breakout areas. We also provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers on arrival and in each training room and we encourage regular use of the hand washing facilities available at the venue throughout the day.

Each learner is also asked to complete their details on an individual Health Declaration form and confirm that they are not aware of any health reasons or other restrictions that will stop them attending the course.

2. Social distancing is the new norm

At Red Cross Training the seating in our breakout areas and training rooms is 1 metre apart to allow for social distancing on arrival and throughout the day. Floor tape is also used where possible to reinforce this distancing.

Whenever reasonably practical, social distancing will be maintained except for training and assessment purposes where it is necessary to come within 1 metre of other learners, related to a real emergency where a first aider may be expected to wear PPE, which will be carried out wearing PPE.

Face-to-face contact will still be minimised by only undertaking close-contact activities for the purpose of assessment and learners working in the same small groups where possible.


3. Greater use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Learners will be provided with fluid resistant surgical masks that meet the standards required for PPE. Everyone attending the course, including the trainer, must wear the mask provided at all times whilst on-site and throughout the course unless exempt*). Masks can be removed when eating and drinking whilst seated 1m apart.

These measures are in place to ensure your safety, the safety of other learners and our trainer. As we are unable to verify the effectiveness of individuals face coverings/masks we do ask that only the provided mask is worn. 

Each of our learners is also provided with their own individual manikin to use throughout their course and manikin faces and lungs are changed between every course.

While gloves are available, they are not provided as mandatory PPE because regular and thorough handwashing is a preferable method of reducing the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria. Viruses and bacteria can still remain present on gloves, and they are not shown to provide additional benefit compared with handwashing when the wearer is not coming into contact with bodily fluids. For more information on the use of gloves by first aiders click here.

4. More frequent cleaning

As mentioned, we will provide appropriate handwashing and sanitising facilities and ensure that all equipment and areas used by learners at their training locations are thoroughly cleaned before use.

Regular deep cleaning is undertaken at our training venues while all equipment, surfaces and toilet facilities are cleaned at the end of each day prior to leaving. The resuscitation manikins that we issue to individual learners are also wiped clean with hard surface disinfectant wipes at the end of each day while used face masks are bagged and stored securely within disposable rubbish bags again at the end of each day.

5. Some first aid skills will be learnt in a new way

From 22 February 2021, the HSE, Resuscitation Council (UK) and First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP) have agreed that to accommodate the mandatory wearing of face coverings at all times (unless exempt*) the practice of rescue breaths may be temporarily suspended on adult only workplace first aid courses.

We believe that combining rescue breaths with chest compressions is best practice when performing CPR on someone who is unresponsive and not breathing which requires learners to briefly remove their face masks to practice the skill and we continue to offer this option if delegates wish to participate in accordance with current industry guidance.

We are confident the extensive safety and hygiene measures we have put in place mitigate risk however, we do recognise that some learners may not feel comfortable removing their mask to demonstrate rescue breaths in a classroom setting. If this is the case, they can choose not to practically demonstrate the rescue breaths**, and this will not affect the learner’s ability to pass the course or their certificate to be issued.

This position will be regularly reviewed by the HSE, Resus Council (UK) and FAQP as we continue to monitor transmission rates and government guidance.

Delivery of all other topics on our courses will remain broadly unchanged with consideration on how social distancing can be maintained on these activities as outlined previously.

Even during these difficult times, it is important for first aiders to carry on using the lifesaving skills they have been taught.

Ready to learn first aid or refresh your skills? Why not book a course today and build your confidence in learning the skills to save a life.

*An exemption to mask-wearing is permitted for any learners who cannot wear a face mask because of any physical or mental illness or impairment, disability or without severe distress. 

** Please be aware this option is not available for courses that include CPR on a baby and/or child, and learners must still demonstrate rescue breaths to pass the course. This also applies to emergency first aid at work-for working near water. The FAQP statement confirms the benefits of teaching rescue breaths to those who have a duty to provide first aid to these groups far outweighs the extremely small theoretical risk of transmission in the classroom whilst practising this skill.

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Topics: First Aid

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