Do businesses need a first-aider on site?

Written by James Reed
Dec 2, 2019

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

In order to be compliant with The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, as a minimum requirement, businesses need an appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements on site. However, if your business has “significant health and safety risks” as a result of the specific nature of your working environment as outlined in a first aid needs assessment, you are more likely to need at least one trained first-aider on site.

How many first-aiders does a business require on site?

The number of first-aiders you will require on site should be determined by the outcome of your first-aid needs assessment. In their L74 Guidance document on the First Aid at work regulations, the Health and Safety Executive has outlined four significant factors that you will need to consider when identifying how many first-aiders you need within your unique business environment:

  • The degree of hazard associated with your work activities and environment
  • How many employees your organisation has
  • Injuries and illnesses that have previously occurred in the workplace
  • Any factors that may affect first-aid provision (inexperienced employees, remote workplaces, absences of the first-aider etc.)

The regulations place responsibility on the duty holder to identify how many first-aiders are required to provide immediate attention to your employees in the event of injury or sudden illness at work. You can learn more about your responsibilities under the first aid at work legislation in our blog. 

When is a person considered a first-aider?

Unfortunately, appointing an employee as a first-aider is not a simple tick-box exercise. In order to be fully compliant with regulations, any first-aiders you appoint will need to have an appropriate level of training in order to perform their duty - this will be determined by the specific risks you have identified in your first aid needs assessment.

Having performed this assessment, many companies require first-aiders to learn the skills covered in a one day training session, such as an emergency first aid at work course. However, if your first aid needs assessment identifies a requirement for additional training, for example if you have employees with a medical condition, a more in-depth course - such as a three day first aid at work course - may be more suitable. 

However, for companies with additional first aid requirements, a bespoke course may also be an option to cater for the specific requirements identified in their risk assessment, such as any hazardous substances, as well as high-risk environments or equipment. 

Whichever course you choose, it's important to remember that first aid at work certificates are valid for three years, so the first-aider will have to undertake a renewal course to ensure they remain compliant with The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.

Find out more about the legal requirements that you need to know for the workplace with The Complete Guide to First Aid at work

What are the repercussions of not having a first-aider on site?

If the risks you have identified in your first aid needs assessment require the provision of first-aiders on site, you must ensure that your business has “adequate and appropriate” measures in place to ensure the health and safety of your employees. This is because, in the event of injury or illness, if there is no trained first-aider on site, you are liable and could be prosecuted.

In addition to this, if in the event of injury or illness you are found to have a first-aider who isn’t adequately trained, this can have a number of potential repercussions, including:


When a serious incident occurs in the workplace, HSE will investigate how first aid was handled during the incident, and the level of training the first-aider has. As outlined in The Sentencing Hearing and Imposing the sentence guidelines, if this is found to be inadequate, HSE will give a penalty that they deem appropriate for the incident. Details of how this is done can be found in HSE’s enforcement policy.

Human cost

A study conducted by the University of Manchester found that up to 59% of deaths from injury across the UK could have been prevented if first aid was given before the emergency medical services arrived. The Resuscitation Council (UK) also states that after a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%. 

This research suggests that the risk for employees can be significantly reduced by companies having qualified first-aiders on site who are able to respond and intervene immediately when an accident occurs.  

As well as ensuring compliance, having a qualified first-aider on site lets your employees know that they are in safe hands if any incident were to take place.

guide to first aid at work

Topics: First Aid

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