Why is it important for first aid training to continue during the Covid-19 lockdown?

Written by Anna Bishop
Jan 20, 2021

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

With so many industries and businesses being forced to close their doors to help keep people safe and protect the NHS, it might be difficult to understand why First Aid at Work courses are still running.

Many workplaces still need to remain open to ensure that key work and services can continue. Whilst current government advice is to work from home if you can, many businesses and industries are unable to do so. This means employers need to ensure that first aid provision is still available for those that can’t work from home should they have an accident or become ill. Health and Safety guidelines are there to protect everyone and can’t just be put on hold.


First aid can help reduce the strain on the NHS

Having qualified first aiders can help reduce the strain on the NHS. A first aider will have been trained in recognising and treating a whole host of injuries and illnesses that may occur in the workplace, as well as at home. Many situations requiring first aid are relatively minor and a first aider can often help without the need to call an ambulance or send them to an already overstretched accident and emergency department.

Lifesaving first aid skills can help prevent someone’s condition from deteriorating whilst waiting for emergency help, for example, if someone is unresponsive and breathing, rolling them onto their side, or giving CPR if their breathing stops, can be the difference between life and death.

We also can’t ignore the increased risk of illness we are faced with in the current situation. The skills held by a first aider enable them to safely assess a casualty and quickly identify when someone needs further medical attention, and where best to get it, e.g. calling 111 or visiting their GP*.

*first aiders are not trained to treat Covid-19 casualties specifically but can recognise when vital signs indicate someone is unwell and safely arrange for further medical attention if needed. Courses include content relating to the changes in the first aiders role since the pandemic started such as appropriate PPE for the current situation.

In this blog, we have tried to answer some of the main questions you may have about first aid training continuing during the current Covid-19 lockdown.


What are my responsibilities for providing first aid provision?

The Health and Safety (first-aid) regulations 1981 explain that businesses should be carrying out a first aid needs assessment to determine what first aider provision and equipment is required. Most businesses will need to revisit the first aid needs assessment they had in place prior to the pandemic as it is likely the workplace, working processes and even the workforce within it have altered, e.g. some of the workforce may now be working from home, shielding or isolating.

You can find out more in our blog: Do employers need to review first aid provision in light of the Covid-19 outbreak


Why do face to face first aid courses continue to run when we are all told to stay at home?

As workplaces continue to operate, essential health and safety training to support them must continue to be available. Whilst many courses can be delivered online or virtually, first aid is unique as the skills are practical in nature and on occasion do require close contact.

Currently first aiders are not qualified if they complete training that is delivered exclusively online. The Health and Safety Executive outlines criteria for blended learning and are clear that practical aspects of the course and assessment are essential for ensuring that first aiders can respond confidently and effectively in an emergency situation.

You can find out more in our blog: Are first aiders ‘qualified’ if they do an online first aid course?


We continue to operate to support our customer needs

We are continuing to deliver face to face first aid training to ensure those industries that are still having to function to support the national infrastructure (food retail, distribution, energy, schools for key workers etc) continue to have access to first aid training, which in turn helps contribute to a safe place of work.

The current pandemic has meant that existing first aid arrangements may no longer be appropriate, and first aider provision may not available if they are shielding, self-isolating or unwell. This means there is an ongoing need for training to be available for both new first aiders but also to ensure existing first aiders can continue to operate safely and in line with current first aid practices.


Are other training providers doing the same?

The First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP) and the HSE agree that first aid training for the workplace should continue to be made available in a Covid safe way.

The following statement has been issued by the FAQP in agreement with the HSE, outlining the industry position for all the main first aid training providers in the UK:

“Further to a review of the current lockdown restrictions and in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, the FAQP can confirm that First Aid at Work courses will continue to run in line with the existing FAQP Guidance for Delivering First Aid Training During the CoVid19 Outbreak.

This will enable GB businesses to remain compliant with guidance on first aid at work provision under The Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations and ensure employers retain access to First Aid at Work qualifications.”

How do you make sure courses are Covid-19 safe?

Before returning to the training room in 2020 we worked closely with the FAQP, HSE and our internal health and safety teams to reduce the risks to both our learners and staff as much as reasonably practicable.


We assessed each of our venues to ensure they were covid safe and checked the environment remained fit for purpose following any changes that were made. This included making sure there was adequate space for social distancing, ample hand washing/sanitising stations, ventilation and opportunity for safe entry and exit paths for learners. Some of our venues didn’t pass the test and so are not currently in use.

We have also reduced the number of learners to allow for social distancing of 2m, with courses currently running with an average of 8 learners.

If we are training in a customer’s own venue, we now require a risk assessment to ensure the same high standards are met.


Wherever reasonably practical, social distancing is maintained, however, for some aspects of the training/assessment it is necessary to come into closer contact with another learner.

When contact is unavoidable such as for assessment, session length is kept to a minimum with us working within the close contact definition used by NHS Test and Trace. The number of these close contact sessions will vary depending on the content of the course they attend.

Each learner has their own manikin for the duration of the course and we have introduced enhanced cleaning processes throughout. We encourage regular use of hand washing facilities and provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers in each training room for regular use.

Face masks

All learners are now provided with PPE in the form of fluid resistant face masks for use throughout the course. These face masks must now be worn throughout the entire training day and can only be removed to eat/drink or for carrying out a demonstration of rescue breaths during CPR assessment on a manikin.

Whilst this exceeds the requirement set out by the industry as a whole, we have combined government guidance with wider evidence and are confident the use of face masks in this way, combined with the other measures we have in place, will make training as safe as possible.

These measures will remain in place until the next review of credible evidence, or any significant change of advice is published.

It goes without saying that we ask anyone who is unwell with symptoms of Covid-19 to not attend the course. It is however important that learners are willing to attend training and follow the guidelines that are in place, so we ask you to discuss any concerns they may have prior to them attending the course.

For up to date details of the safety measures in place please visit our coronavirus update page


Why do we need training if the HSE has allowed first aid certificate extensions?

The HSE’s position

The HSE have said that First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work certificates that expired after 16 March 2020 continue to remain valid until 31 October 2020 or 6 months from date of expiry, whichever is later. All requalification training for these certificates should be completed by 31 March 2021. This means many businesses may feel that training can be put on hold.

However, an extension isn’t automatic. To qualify, employers must be able to demonstrate that:

  • they have made every effort to arrange requalification training as soon as possible and can explain in detail why they have not been able to do so if this is after expiry.
  • they have adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities to give first aid to any employee who is injured or becomes ill at work
  • the level of first aid cover provided remains appropriate for their particular work environment
  • the level of first aid provision necessary in high risk settings is fully maintained, e.g. in construction, agriculture, engineering and chemicals

This guidance now applies to employers in England, Scotland and Wales. This means that for many, first aid training is still a requirement and should be available.

Ensuring skills remain fit for purpose

In addition to the points set out above by the HSE, employers should also review the individual leaners needs. If they have not had regular interaction with first aid or no longer feel confident with the skills they were taught, then it would be advisable for them to attend a requalification course to ensure they are able to act promptly in an emergency.

Where possible, resources such as an online annual update course, access to learning resources such as our safe hands platform and time to review general first aid guidance would be advised – whilst this is recommended routinely, it is particularly important during any interim period with their qualifications.

Face to face training is preferable, if you can’t access training, the HSE has made some other recommendations to help improve your access to first aid provision. Further information can be found here


We are constantly reviewing the latest available science and customer feedback

Having now been back in the training room for several months we have continued to adapt and improve the service we offer. We have had overwhelmingly good feedback from the learners who have attended our training during these difficult times and continue to adapt and adjust as new science, advice and feedback becomes available. See our Trustpilot reviews for the latest feedback from learners that have completed our courses during the current Covid-19 situation.

We understand it can be difficult knowing what to do for the best with regards to training, and regardless of what measures we have in place, ultimately the decision is down to your business and the first aider themselves as to whether they are comfortable attending our courses.

We always work on the side of caution and where guidance is not clear, or we feel could be more robust, we take the most stringent safety route. We are confident the measures we have in place allow us to offer the best possible first aid training experience, meeting the needs of the learners, the Health and Safety (first aid) regulation 1981 guidance as well as current Covid-19 guidance.

Read how one of our learners who was trained during the Covid-19 pandemic used their skills to help save a life here.

If you would like to find out more about how we can support your business with first aid training, please contact our sales team by emailing rctsales@redcross.org.uk or calling 0344 871 8000

Find the latest information on our Covid-19 update page

Topics: First Aid

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