Top of page Skip navigation


Update on the review of the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981

Date: 25 Aug 2008

Click here for the latest on the most important changes to First Aid in the Workplace for over 30 years. First Aid at Work courses are likely to be 3 days instead of 4 and Appointed persons courses will be 6 hours instead of 4.

This update on the review of the First Aid Regulations seeks to clarify the relationship between HSE and the First Aid at Work Council. It also provides HSE's current position on the future of approval and monitoring of training providers and the introduction of new first aid at work training courses.

Relationship with the First Aid at Work Council (FWC)

Following the review of the First Aid Regulations conducted in 2004, HSE concluded that its focus should be on the structure and content of first aid at work (FAW) courses rather than the approval of FAW training providers. This approach was ratified by the Health and Safety Commission. In considering the future of approval and monitoring, HSE's preferred option was to move towards delivery of this function through an industry body representing all sectors of the FAW training industry. However, no such body existed.

In February 2004 a meeting was arranged by HSE with the Voluntary Aid Societies (St John Ambulance, St Andrew's Ambulance Association, British Red Cross) and Independent Training Organisations to consider the formation of an Industry Lead Body. The smaller providers were represented indirectly by the Association of Independent First Aid at Work Training Organisations (AIFAWTO).

The group agreed a shared purpose to define and maintain standards within the FAW sector, and to champion best practice throughout the industry. The industry network became formalised into the FWC and a constitution was drafted by the initial management board which is available on the FWC website at:

In parallel with the formation of the FWC, and to meet the longer term objectives of HSE, discussion was held on the potential transfer of HSE's First Aid Approval and Monitoring Section (FAAMS) to FWC and this was incorporated into their constitution.

HSE remained concerned that the FWC management board had no direct representation from the smaller independent FAW training providers that constitute a significant proportion of the industry. Agreement was reached with the original FWC management board that there should be six places on that board for direct representation by the smaller independent providers. These would then supplement the six Voluntary Aid Society and five larger independent provider representatives on the original board. In order to facilitate the process HSE called meetings with groups of ‘regional representatives' (a network set up by HSE for a wider consideration of a previous consultation paper). At their request HSE conducted a democratic election for the six management board places during November 2005.

The management board of the FWC became fully representative with its first full meeting in January 2006. This representative group was then in a position to discuss the implications of future changes for the FAW training provider industry in addition to consideration of the transfer of FAAMS. Currently, HSE has one seat on the management board as a non-voting member.

HSE's view is that the FWC should become a membership body representative of all sectors of the FAW training provider industry with which HSE can discuss issues relevant to the development of its thinking in respect of its responsibilities under the First Aid Regulations. The views of the FWC can then be taken into account along with those of other stakeholders in reaching a final position.

HSE considers the first steps to have been taken and accordingly now recognises FWC as the lead industry body with official representation from all sectors of the FAW training provider industry. To further the process a high level working group has been set up to explore opportunities for working together.

Approval and Monitoring

HSE has recently considered a business model submitted by the FWC management board to take over the current FAAMS function. Having conducted an evaluation of this, HSE concluded that it could not make a substantive internal business case for the transfer of FAAMS to the FWC on the basis of the proposed model.

In the light of this and the urgent need to ensure continuity of service beyond March 2007, HSE has made a decision to retain FAAMS in-house at least in the medium term. While this may require some internal reorganisation, the approval and monitoring process will essentially continue under similar arrangements to those currently in operation. This does not, however, imply that HSE has abandoned its longer term aspiration to move approval and monitoring to one or more external organisations.

HSE remains committed to helping ensure adequate training standards are developed and maintained by all training providers delivering FAW training courses.

FAW Training Courses

One of the outcomes of the review of the First Aid Regulations was that the Health and Safety Commission agreed with the recommendation to make changes to first aid training courses. HSE has therefore developed new training courses in consultation with relevant stakeholders. The last full paper on this issue was published on HSE's website in October 2005:

Review of the health and safety (first-aid) regulations 1981 [PDF 161kb]

Since publication, HSE has met with the FWC Standards Committee to discuss a number of relevant technical issues. Based on arguments presented by the Standards Committee, HSE has made some further modifications to the course structure although the course syllabus is the same as that outlined in the Position Statement.

The intention is that in future, employers will be able to send suitable employees on either a 6 hour (minimum) emergency first aid at work (EFAW) or an 18 hour (minimum) FAW course, based on the findings of their first aid needs assessment (see Appendix 1). After 3 years, first aiders will need to complete another course (either a 6 hour EFAW or 12 hour FAW requalification course, as appropriate) to obtain a new certificate. Within any 3 year certification period, first aiders should complete two annual refresher courses, covering basic life support/ skills updates, that will each last for at least 3 hours.

No date for the introduction of these courses has been set but HSE is aware that FAW training providers require an adequate lead-in period. There are a number of additional issues to be clarified before a date can be finalised. Firstly, whether the 3 day FAW course needs to be trialled in a pilot study prior to its introduction. Secondly, consideration will be given to any arrangements that need to be put in place for the approval and monitoring of those providers wishing to offer the EFAW course and whether these arrangements should be extended to those offering annual refresher training.

HSE will revise the guidance for employers in its publication: First aid at work: The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (L74). This will help employers understand the new training regime and will provide more detailed information on how to conduct a first aid needs assessment. HSE recognises this is crucial in ensuring employers send prospective first aiders on the course that most closely meets the needs of their workplace. The guidance will also strongly emphasise that HSE will consider it good practice for first aiders to undertake annual refresher training. Once the guidance has been drafted, it will be subject to a consultation process with stakeholders, as appropriate.

Summary Points

  • HSE recognises the FWC as the lead industry body with representation from all sectors of the FAW training provider industry.
  • HSE will not transfer FAAMS to the FWC and will retain it in-house.
  • HSE has made some modifications to the structure of FAW training courses since its Position Statement was published.
  • HSE needs to resolve a number of issues before a date for the introduction of the new courses is announced and an adequate lead-in period will be given for FAW training providers.

Any further significant developments will be published on the first aid web pages of HSE's website.

Appendix 1

Flow chart showing courses to be completed over a 3 year certification period for emergency first aid at work and first aid at work. The dotted line indicates the route to be taken in subsequent years after completion of the relevant course at year 3.