An Observation of First Aid Training

This article is based on an original letter sent to the Executive Council of a Professional Therapy Organisation in August 2006.

 An Observation of First Aid Training from

There is no doubt that any therapist should have knowledge of what to do in the case of an emergency.  Many therapists work independently and would have to cope with any emergency situation on their own as it presented.

During my time serving on the Executive Council/Committees of Aromatherapy Organisations I was asked if I would put together a First Aid Course that would be particularly relevant for therapists.  With my background in First Aid training and Ambulance Service experience this is something I would be qualified to do.   One reason that decided me to become involved, was that there had been murmurings that therapists should do the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) First Aid at Work (FAW) course.  I felt that the FAW course of four days, or 24 hours, would not necessarily be a beneficial investment for the therapist.

As I have previously tutored on HSE FAW courses, I am aware that the content presented to students on these courses is strictly controlled.  Therefore, in the preparation for a course that was therapist focussed, I felt it would be beneficial for me to update my knowledge on the current content of official FAW courses, whilst reviewing the current guidelines for first aid training in general.  In particular, my interest was in the shorter courses known as Appointed Person (AP) or Emergency Aid (EA).

The reasoning behind the suggestion that therapists should take the FAW level of training, from one of the 1200+ HSE-approved providers, is the assumption that it is at a higher level of knowledge.  However, the strictly limited content may not be the best solution for therapists.  In fact, I was very surprised at the limited content now required for the FAW courses since January 2006.

The HSE FAW course is primarily designed for the First Aid personnel in a place of employment, probably with a First Aid Room, often in a controllable environment with assistance available from colleagues and the assumed availability of ambulance attendance within a reasonable time frame.  Many FAW first aid personnel will be laypersons, with little medical knowledge or anatomy and physiology knowledge.  Apart from any organized training and exercises organized by their employers within their employment, many will not have to practice the skills taught on the FAW course, or experience any form of examination or assessment skills as therapists do.  It makes sense to limit the amount of appropriate information given to these First Aiders in order to increase their chances of remembering it.

This reality, along with the need to simplify the guidelines to laypersons, has been recognized by the Resuscitation Council UK and the HSE, resulting in the content of HSE FAW courses being dramatically reduced from January 2006.  Quite rightly, the only subject matter to be included is that specifically laid down for the FAW certificate, as this is a 'standard' that participants are examined on.  Conversely, the AP or EA first aid courses are neither controlled by, nor approved by the HSE. 

In the HSE booklet HSG212 (The training of first aid at work Â? A guide to gaining and maintaining HSE approval), Appendix 2, Related Training, states :

'Appointed person/emergency aid training

1    This is not a statutory requirement and a HSE FAW-approved organisation must not state, verbally or in writing, that this type of training is a legal requirement.  Equally, any certificates issued must not state or imply that this training is HSE-approved.'

In their guide, the HSE do give recommendations on the minimum time and the suggested content for these courses, but no restriction is placed on the provider as to what can, or cannot, be included in addition to the recommended subject matter.  Therefore, any additional relevant information, that would benefit a particular student group, can be included in the training, perhaps focussed towards the particular needs of their end users.  Information that was previously taught on FAW course, but now withdrawn to ease the learning of the layperson, can be included.  It should be noted that the Resuscitation Council UK state in the new guidelines "Â?The publication of new treatment recommendations does not imply that current clinical care is either unsafe or ineffective. "

In researching this subject, I have observed that there is some confusion, amongst therapists and their professional organisations, regarding these short courses, often presented over one day.  I am concerned that committee members of professional organisations should be fully aware of the facts in this matter in order to make informed decisions.

Most FAW Approved training services are fully aware of these differences and do not try to use their FAW Approval to sell one day courses.  Unfortunately, there have been examples of a few implying that their one day first aid courses are HSE recognized.  In July 2006 the HSE First Aid Approvals and Monitoring section advised me "Appointed Persons (AP) and Emergency Aid (EA) courses are most definitely not approved by the HSE".  The only HSE approved courses are the FAW and the FAW re-qualification courses.  FAW courses last for at least 24 hours of training, usually held over four days or spread over several weeks.  Re-qualification courses are of at least 12 hours training and are normally held over two days. Information on the HSE FAW courses and AP courses can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website at :

The HSE also advise that HSE-approved providers are contravening their approval conditions by even suggesting their AP/EA or one day courses are 'Approved' in any way and the HSE will take action to stop any organisation promoting courses in this manner.  This has been a very interesting exercise and I hope it is helpful to all therapists and their professional organizations in understanding the benefits to therapists of the shorter Emergency Aid courses and avoiding any misinformation on this matter.

David Tagg VMSM, SP.Dip.A

About the author:

David Tagg has been Involved in First Aid and Health Care for most of his life. Awarded the Badge of Honour and Voluntary Medical Services Medal by the British Red Cross Society. Previously a member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA), an Executive Committee member of the International Society of Professional Aromatherapists, and the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists. More background information is available at:


Author: David & Linda Tagg
Copyright © 2023 David & Linda Tagg. All rights reserved

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