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By Richard Evens, Commercial Training Director, St John Ambulance.

How many people in your business are first aid trained? While it’s likely that you might have enough to meet the legal recommendation, it’s possible that first aid training isn’t seen as a key part of your business’ health and safety practices.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t see first aid training as the important skill that it is and how beneficial it is to all employees. In fact, first aid can be the difference between life and death.

In June the HSE unveiled the latest set of workplace death figures, which revealed that the number of deaths in the workplace has risen to 171 between 2010 and 2011. This followed a record low of 147 the previous year. It’s clear from these statistics that employers must ensure every effort is made to protect their business, their employees and their customers by meeting every health and safety requirement, including making sure they are


prepared to deal with workplace accidents.

Even though the HSE has simplified some workplace safety guidance to make it easier for businesses to comply, many are still failing to meet the recommended guidelines. A St John Ambulance survey found that an astounding 79% of businesses can report periods of time when no first aider is present. But what happens if someone is injured during this time gap? Not only is this a breach of regulation, that states you should allow for planned absence, it’s also a risk to the safety of employees, yet many businesses fail to remember this.

With a blocked airway, for example, you have four minutes to live, yet it takes on average eight minutes for an ambulance to respond to an emergency. With this in mind it is important for more workers, if not all, to be trained in first aid to minimise these gaps. By taking this approach, organisations have the

opportunity to reverse the increase in workplace deaths and continue the progress made in previous years.

One way of increasing the update of first aid training would be to offer it as an employee benefit. This would not only change how first aid is viewed by employees, but would no doubt increase the number of workers equipped with this set of key skills. We’ve actually found that the majority of workers (59%) want first aid training in the workplace, which is great opportunity for businesses to help make a difference. By treating training as an employee benefit, rather than a time consuming burden, a safer working environment could be guaranteed for thousands of employees. This can also lead to a better commercial reputation and increased employee morale. From a financial perspective, the time and money invested into such training can often be far smaller than the time and money spent in the

aftermath of a serious first aid accident.

Whilst its easy to point out those that don’t treat first aid as a priority, there are some businesses who are shining examples of best practice and do go the extra mile to protect their workforce. This is why St John Ambulance recently launched its annual First Aid Awards to reward such companies. Workplaces of all sizes from a range of industries have been shortlisted including HJ Heinz Co, Vodafone UK and The University of Northampton.

We hope that one day, first aid training will be just as common in businesses as a company pension. In the meantime, we urge businesses to take the small, but necessary steps that could be the difference, between a life lost and a life saved.

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