What is the legal requirement for first aid at work in 2020?

Written by Anna Bishop
Oct 23, 2020

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

Legal obligations always pose some degree of ambiguity but the coronavirus pandemic has intensified this for employers. With our working environments now so starkly different, many employers are asking, "What is the legal requirement for first aid at work in 2020?". 

The pandemic has drastically impacted how businesses operate due to remote working and a change in working processes. This hasn’t changed your duty under The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 (the HSFAR) to provide an “adequate and appropriate” level of first aid cover. What the pandemic may have changed, however, is your circumstances and how “reasonably practicable” it is meet your first aid needs.

Below we've summarised what your legal requirements are, along with how the coronavirus may have impacted them and how you can still stay compliant. 


What are an employer's legal requirements for first aid at work under the regulations?

The HSFAR were implemented to ensure that employees receive immediate first aid attention “in the event of injury or sudden illness at work”.


Duty to make provision for first aid

Under regulation 3, you must ensure that there is “an adequate and appropriate level of equipment, facilities and suitable persons to provide first aid for the circumstances.”

The regulations are not explicit about what an "adequate and appropriate" level of first aid provision means, as this will vary considerably depending on your workplace. The HSE's guidance on the HSFAR ("the HSE’s Guidance") requires businesses to carry out a first aid needs assessment so they can shape their personnel and equipment to their individual circumstances.

This first aid needs assessment will help you to consider all of the circumstances of your workplace, including the hazards and risks, present (s.3.4). You’re also required to periodically review your first aid needs, particularly after any operational changes (s.30), which is something many of us will be experiencing this year.

If your needs assessment identifies a requirement for first aiders, then you must ensure that they undergo appropriate training and hold the proper qualifications (s.3(2)). The HSE’s Guidance requires you to consider who is suitable to act as a first aider and to conduct due diligence when selecting training providers.

If you don’t need first aiders, then you must select an "appointed person" to take care of the equipment/facilities, and seek medical help in an emergency (s.3(2)). 


Find out more about your first aid legal requirements, including the difference between an appointed person and a first aider, how many first aiders you need and how you can ensure they’re properly qualified: Download The Complete Guide to First Aid at Work.


Duty to inform employees

You must also inform your employees of first aid arrangements, including where first aid personnel, equipment and facilities are located (reg.4). This is particularly important if things have changed.


Have these legal requirements changed as a result of Covid-19?

While your first aid legal requirements may not have changed, what is "adequate and appropriate" to provide for your circumstances may have. The pandemic also presents several challenges as to what is reasonably practicable to achieve - such as how you keep first aiders qualified, how training is delivered and how the skills might have to adapt in a real emergency situation.

The HSE has recommended that all employers refresh their first needs assessment during the coronavirus pandemic alongside their COVID-secure measures. They have also set out several ways that you can adapt and ensure first aid cover when your employees return to work, such as:

  • Reducing first aid cover (if your needs assessment shows less is required)
  • Sharing first aid cover with another business
  • Relying on first-aid certificate extensions when first aid training could not be completed.


COVID-19 presents many challenges to businesses but these don’t excuse a failure to fulfil your first aid legal obligations. With operations, policies and workforces constantly changing - and the NHS under strain - it’s never been more important to review your first aid needs assessment. Every second counts in an emergency.


To discover more on why first aid cover is so important, what your legal obligations are and how to carry out an effective first aid needs assessment, download The Complete Guide to First Aid at Work:

guide to first aid at work

Topics: First Aid

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