First Aid regulatory change takes effect

As of 1 October 2013, the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 have been amended, removing the requirement for HSE to approve first aid training and qualifications. This means that businesses now have more flexibility in how they manage their provision of first aid in the workplace.

Legislative change will take effect at midnight on 30 September 2013 and HSE approval of first aid training and qualifications will cease.

For training providers currently approved by HSE, regardless of the date of expiry that appears on their approval certificate, their approval to undertake first training will expire and will no longer be valid.

An employer will still need to make an assessment of their first-aid needs to establish what provision for first aid is required. This will depend upon the workplace, taking into account, among other things, the number of employees, size, location and work activity.

HSE has published final guidance to the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, and provided further guidance on the selection of first aid training providers following a lengthy consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.  Both publications are available on HSE's website. The guidance has been available on HSE's first aid web pages since February 2013 and has been updated to reflect feedback received. Hard copies of the guidance to the Regulations will be available from HSE books in the near future.

The revised guidance helps employers identify and select competent training providers.  The guidance makes it clear that first aid training is available from a wide range of providers including:

  • those who choose to offer regulated qualifications (first aid qualifications regulated by the qualification regulators - Ofqual, SQA and the Welsh Government),
  • those who operate under voluntary approval schemes for example, a trade or industry body having quality assurance schemes accredited by a third party (eg UKAS),
  • those who operate independently of any such scheme for example, where a training provider chooses to demonstrate their competence to an employer by providing evidence that they meet the criteria set by HSE, or
  • from one of the Voluntary Aid Societies (St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and St Andrew's First Aid).

The changes are particularly advantageous where additional or specialist training may be required due to the work activity, for example in the outdoor education industry, where employers will be able to choose the most appropriate specialist provider to meet their identified training needs – and potentially avoid duplication in training.

All training providers will need to be able – and should be prepared to demonstrate how they satisfy the criteria set by HSE. Clarity in this area will be beneficial to both employers and first aid training providers. However, the Health and Safety at Work Act clearly places a duty on the employer to select a competent training provider.

The change is part of HSE's work to reduce the burden on businesses and put common sense back into health and safety, whilst maintaining standards. The changes relating to first aid apply to businesses of all sizes and from all sectors.

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