Changes to first aid regulations: draft guidance issued
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued two new sets of guidance ahead of proposed changes to the Health and Safety (First aid) Regulations 1981. The changes to the Regulations come as part of the Löfstedt review, which recommended that “the Health and Safety (First aid) Regulations 1981 should be amended to remove the requirement for HSE to approve the training and qualifications of appointed first-aid personnel.”
The report also noted that “this requirement seems to have little justification, provided the training meets a certain standard”, noting further that the HSE approval process went beyond the minimum requirement laid out in EU legislation.
New first aid regulations
The new first aid regulations are expected to come into force in October 2013. New guidance gives both employers and training providers the opportunity to consider the changes, take any necessary action and comment on the changes to the HSE. The HSE has welcomed the changes, pointing to greater flexibility for employers as a major advantage. HSE policy advisor Peter Brown said:
“Removing the HSE approval process will give businesses greater flexibility to choose their own training providers and first-aid training that is right for their workplace, based on their needs assessment and their individual business needs. The draft guidance documents aim to provide practical support to help businesses assess and understand their first-aid needs and find a provider best suited to them. HSE has used the feedback from the recent consultation exercise to shape the guidance, but would welcome any further feedback on the guidance before the regulations come into place.”
It is important to note that, until the changes come into effect, employers still need to ensure that their first-aid training is only carried out by training providers that have been approved by the HSE.
It has always been the case that employers need to make an assessment of their first-aid provision based upon the risks and situation particular to them. For example, the level of first-aid provision may depend upon the work activities and processes carried out, the number and distribution of employees, and proximity to emergency services. This requirement will not change. Under the new proposals, employers will no longer be required to use an approved first-aid training provider; but they will have to be able to justify the provider they do select.
Selecting a training provider
The new guidance requires employers to justify their selection of first-aid trainers based upon a “due diligence” test of prospective training providers in order to select a competent provider. The guidance indicates that the training provider may be available from a number of sources. Some first-aid training providers may choose to operate through voluntary accreditation schemes or industry bodies whose intention is to set and maintain standards in line with the requirements of the HSE. Other training providers may choose to operate independently of any such scheme. First-aid training is also available from the Voluntary Aid Societies (St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and St Andrew’s First Aid).
The effort needed for the due diligence (“reasonable investigation”) in selecting a training provider should be in proportion to a provider’s chosen route to delivery or industry affiliation. The guidance indicates that there may be a “ready-made” assurance when considering those Voluntary Aid Societies since they “are together acknowledged by HSE as one of the standard setters for currently accepted first-aid practice, in so far as they relate to the topics covered in First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work training courses. The Voluntary Aid Societies also work to similar principles of assessment, and employ a similar hierarchy of policies and processes to ensure training quality standards, to those of regulated qualifications.”
If an employer chooses to use an independent training provider with no affiliations, then a more in-depth investigation may be required as part of the “due diligence” test. The guidance indicates that in such cases all of the following criteria should be used as part of the due diligence test:
- The qualifications expected of trainers and assessors
- Monitoring and quality assurance systems
- Teaching and standards of first-aid practice
- Syllabus content
There is no requirement for employers to record the due diligence checks, but it “may be useful to retain a written record” so that it is possible to justify the selection of a particular training provider to, for instance, an HSE or Local Authority inspector.
The guidance provides checklists and questions that can be used by employers to carry out the due diligence test. The information covers the five areas indicated above.
Employers should not be daunted by the proposed new requirement to select a competent training provider for first-aid training. It is no different to selecting a trainer for any type of health and safety training. However, employers may be tempted to use those providers with “ready-made” assurance as indicated in the guidance, and private independent providers may be at a disadvantage.