What is the difference between level 2 and level 3 first aid at work training?

Written by Alice Squires
Jul 16, 2020

Alice is Training Product Manager for Red Cross Training with responsibility for the training content and delivery of our range of training courses and resources.

In 2013, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) stopped approving individual courses and training providers. The voluntary aid societies were identified as standard setters for first aid, including the British Red Cross. Most other training providers needed to work through an external Awarding Organisation (AO) to be able to meet the requirements outlined by the HSE in the ‘Selecting a first aid training provider: a guide for employers’. Awarding organisations use qualification levels to help identify the complexity and depth of information covered during training.

Emergency First aid at Work was identified as being a level 2 qualification. This is a 1 day course and looks at basic first aid, usually for those working in low hazard environments.

First aid at Work was identified as being a level 3 qualification. This is a 3 day course and looks at the content of an emergency first aid at work course, but includes a host of additional injuries and illnesses making it suitable for higher hazard environments.


How are the levels of first aid at work training determined?

Levels of first aid training, as with any qualification in the UK, are determined by The Regulated Qualifications Framework (2015), where the level awarded refers to the complexity or challenge, and the credits assigned refer to time spent studying the qualification.

The RQF is managed by Ofqual, which is the regulatory body that awards organisations such as Qualsafe and the Association of First Aid Qualifications (AoFAQ). When searching for first aid training providers, it is common to see smaller training providers offering courses entitled “Level 3 First Aid at Work (RQF)”. This is because these organisations will have registered with an awarding body such as Qualsafe whose first aid at work qualification is approved by Ofqual, meaning that it has been levelled on the RQF as either 2 or 3.

Many first aid training providers do this because the regulatory body will be able to provide them with course materials, lesson plans and certificates for delegates. On top of this, it allows smaller training organisations to gain credibility as they are being indirectly regulated by a government body via the awarding organisation. These training providers will often provide either level 2 or 3 training, however there is no legal requirement for employers to undertake their first aid at work training with a provider that offers levelled courses.


Differences between level 2 and 3 first aid at work training

The differences in level 2 and 3 first aid at work training are generally defined by the complexity of the courses (the level) and the time needed to complete them (the credits).

Level 2 refers to the emergency first aid at work qualification, which is designed for workplaces that fall into a low risk category. The variety of topics covered in the training sessions are less complex, and the course is assigned one credit, because it only takes a day (8 hours) to complete. For this qualification, first-aiders will be taught practical skills such as how to place someone who is unresponsive but breathing into the recovery position, and it is much less in-depth than the level 3 course.

Level 3 refers to the first aid at work course, which is designed for higher risk workplaces and assigned three credits, because it takes three days (24 hours) to complete. In this course, first-aiders will cover a wider range of skills including a variety of medical conditions, such as how to deal with someone who is having a heart attack or seizure.

Both of these courses are appropriate for workplace first aid, but are designed for workplaces that have identified themselves as being high hazard or where there are a lot of employees. When deciding between these courses, you must consider how many first-aiders you need and the risk level of your working environment.


How do you choose which level of first aid at work training is right for your business?

The level of training needed to be undertaken by your first-aiders will determined by the outcome of your first aid needs assessment, which will identify how many first-aiders you need and the level of training required according to the hazards/risks of your working environment.

If this assessment determines that your environment is higher hazard, then it is likely you will need to complete the three-day first aid at work course, or a more bespoke course suited to your needs.

Whichever course you choose, it is important to remember that while many training providers will state that their first aid at work course is Level 3 on the Recognised Qualifications Framework (RQF), this isn’t a legal requirement - not all providers will be approved by an awarding organisation or Ofqual-registered, for instance, the voluntary aid societies such as British Red Cross, are identified as standard setters for first aid training in the Health and Safety (first aid) regulations 1981 and do not require external accreditation through an Awarding Organisation.

However, according to the HSE’s leaflet, Selecting a First Aid Training Provider: A Guide for Employers, as long as the first aid training provider has the necessary skills and competence to teach first aid and a thorough quality assurance process, they do not need to be approved by an awarding organisation - but all of their first aid at work courses must meet the requirements of the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.

For more information on choosing the right course for your business, try our first aid course calculator which looks at how many employees you have whether you are a low or high hazard workplace and other factors to help you decide on the most appropriate training.


First aid provision in the workplace

Workplace first aid compliance is vital. Download 'First aid provision in the workplace: A Guide for Businesses' to learn everything you need to know.

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Topics: First Aid

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