St John Ambulance warns businesses to be prepared for overhaul in workplace first aid

St John Ambulance is warning businesses in Devon to be prepared for the biggest overhaul in first aid in the workplace for 25 years or face a cash fine.

St John Ambulance is warning businesses in Devon to be prepared for the biggest overhaul in first aid in the workplace for 25 years or face a cash fine.

The Health and Safety Executive is bringing in major changes to its first aid regulations on October 1 and the organisation believes many employers are ill-prepared, which could put the lives of their staff at risk.

Changes including reclassifying medium sized businesses into low or high risk which means companies many need to train more first aiders among their employees.

Elaine Leighton, Regional Marketing Manager for St John Ambulance in the South West said: "It's a sad fact that 180 people die every year from injuries caused at work. This number has gone down from 233 fatalities the previous year which shows how taking health and safety seriously can make the difference between life and death.

"We strongly recommend that businesses embrace the changes to continue to make our workplaces as safe as possible and ensure that if an accident does happen, they are well prepared.

"The worst possible scenario is that an employee is injured and a workplace has not got enough first aiders trained to deal with that situation. We don't know how the HSE will respond to breaches in regulations but businesses should be wary of fines or even charges under the corporate manslaughter act. Every year six million workdays are lost due to workplace injury - businesses could save money by putting precautions and first aiders in place. It's wise to prepare now."

Most Read

The changes, which have been developed by the HSE in consultation with leading first aid organisations including St John Ambulance, are:

* It is proposed that medium-risk businesses will be reclassified into low or high risk. This may mean that businesses have to train more people to comply with the regulations. Details will be announced on 1 October.

* Where a business's risk assessments previously identified the need for an Appointed Person, they only may now need to have a qualified Emergency First Aider in the Workplace (EFAW) that will require a one-day training course.

* The four day First aid at work (FAW) course will be shortened to three days. The content will be similar to the four day course, but recent streamlining of first aid protocols and enhanced education techniques mean that students need to spend less time away from work

* The two day FAW requalification to be taken within three years of initial training will remain unchanged.

* First aiders are strongly recommended by the HSE to attend a three hour Annual refresher (AR) course to prevent 'skills fade' in addition to the FAW and EFAW courses.

Elaine continued: "At St John Ambulance we train around half a million people nationally in first aid every year and so we're well placed to offer our help and expertise to businesses, schools and anyone who will be affected by these changes.

"The changes will put the subject of health and safety in the spotlight which provides an excellent opportunity to remind businesses that the safety of their employees must been seen as a priority."

Devon-based builders' merchants Rawle Gammon and Baker Holdings Ltd have used St John Ambulance's first aid training courses for the past five years - and staff have been pleased by the training provided and felt comfortable if they have had to put it into practice.

Jenny Naylor, from the company's human resources department, is responsible for ensuring first aid training is kept up to date. She said: "We regularly use St John Ambulance because the training given is first class - there is also an opportunity for our staff to attend a practice session which acts as a reminder of the training.

"It is so important to ensure that people in the workplace know how to react in an emergency, particularly in our industry with plant and machinery on site - health and safety is extremely important to us. There have been occasions when our staff have had to use their first aid knowledge and we are pleased by the level and scope of training provided by St John Ambulance. Due to their training, we have trained staff who know exactly what to do."

St John Ambulance has set up online risk assessment tools on their website to guide customers through the changes and help them calculate the level of risk in their business and which courses to choose. Visit

It is proven that the skills of first aiders tend to fade over the three years they are qualified. To combat this skills fade and to help employees comply with the HSE's strong recommendation to refresh their skills annually, St John Ambulance are offering for every FAW course attended after 1 October 2009 an annual refresher for free.

To book a course or find out more, visit, contact the St John Ambulance Devon Training Team on 01392 824445 or email for local courses in your area.