Selecting a first aid training provider – guidance for employers

practicing cpr in first aid training

When it comes to ensuring that those delegated to be workplace first aiders receive the necessary level of training, the duty falls to the employer to decide who will provide this training for their employees. A quick Google search however will bring up hundreds of providers at a wide range of price points. This is understandably quite daunting. However, there are a few steps you can take to make this process easier, and in this blog post we’ll explain clearly all the options that you have at your disposal. This will help you to make an informed decision about which is the right one for your business needs. 

St John Ambulance Cymru is Wales’ #1 first aid training provider, and we run an extensive list of first aid courses designed to ensure your business is first aid compliant. We don’t expect you to take our word for it though! We’re sure after you’ve read this article you’ll agree. 

What does the HSE say about first aid training providers? 

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is the agency in the UK responsible for regulating and enforcing health, safety, and welfare at work. It sets out guidelines and regulations to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy for employees. 

The HSE used to approve first aid training and qualifications, however it has not done this since 1 October 2013. The reasoning behind this was to give more flexibility to employers to choose training most suitable for their specific business.  

Despite this, the HSE does provide extensive guidance on what employers should be aware of and look for when it comes to selecting a training provider. They also specify that under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, the choice must be appropriate and adequate, based on a risk assessment. This puts the responsibility on the employer to identify potential hazards and risk and decide from here what the most suitable first aid provisions will look like. 

In relation to this, it's useful to be aware that when it comes to taking on the roles and responsibilities of a workplace first aider, then this will typically be covered by a 3-Day First Aid at Work course. Similarly, a workplace emergency first aider would find a 1-Day Emergency First Aid at Work course suitable for their needs.  

The HSE also says that employers should undertake sufficient due diligence when selecting a training provider, and highlights five key areas: 

  1. Qualifications – Trainers and assessors must have a qualification that shows that they have the necessary knowledge and competence to teach first aid.  
  2. Monitoring – A training provider must have strict quality assurance measures in place to ensure training course standards remain of high quality. This will include audits of the trainers, a feedback system and complaints procedure being put in place and ensuring that the quality of training equipment is maintained. 
  3. Standards of teaching and practice – All training must meet standards as set out in current guidelines published by the Resuscitation Council (UK) and the current edition of the first-aid manual of the Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS). 
  4. Syllabus content – When it comes to FAW and EFAW, specific modules are covered as part of delegate training. 
  5. Certification – that on the certificate that attendees receive, that there is specific information including the name of the qualification, that is has been issued for the purposes of complying with the requirements of the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, and that it will remain valid for three years.  

Should a first aid training provider meet all these requirements, then they can be considered by the employer as a provider for their workplace first aid training.  

The different types of workplace first aid training providers 

There are five broad categories that first aid training providers fall into, which we’ll now explore.  

Voluntary Aid Societies 

The UK’s Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS) are St John Ambulance Cymru (alongside the other St John Ambulance divisions that represent the other UK nations), St Andrew’s First Aid, and the British Red Cross. One of the key services that the Voluntary Aid Societies provide is first aid training 

Generally speaking, first aid training from a voluntary aid society will be the best you will find on the market. This is because of a few important reasons: 

  • The VAS actually advise the HSE on what first aid training standards should be. This means that when it comes to first aid standards in the UK, the HSE looks to the voluntary aid societies for guidance on what this looks like. 

  • The voluntary aid societies together co-author the annual First Aid Manual, considered the authoritative guide on initial care and treatment. The HSE take guidance from this, and as mentioned above, following its standards is a pre-requisite when it comes to being a competent first aid trainer. 

  • The Voluntary Aid Societies are also members of the First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP). The FAQP publishes quality assurance standards that should be followed by all training providers, and these standards are also observed by the HSE. This means that any first aid training you receive a qualification for will have to meet the standards set by the VAS. 

Training providers who offer qualifications accredited by an awarding body. 

Another type of first aid training provider you will encounter is one that is registered with an Awarding Organisation (AO) and meets their minimum requirements in order to issue first aid certificates. Such AO’s include Qualification Wales, SQA, and Ofqual. These AO’s have mechanisms in place to monitor quality assurance, and providers will lose accreditation if they cannot provide training that meets the AO’s requirements.  

This should give you some satisfaction that your training provider is of adequate quality and can be trusted to deliver appropriate training. However, it is always important to do your own due diligence. Also, it’s useful to remember that such standards the AO may have will be set out by the FAQP, which is guided by the Voluntary Aid Societies. 

Trainers who operate under voluntary accreditation schemes. 

You will also encounter training providers that operate under a voluntary accreditation scheme. Examples of this include trade or industry bodies, such as the First Aid Industry Body. This may be suitable if you are an industry with very specific needs. These training providers are totally independent of any awarding organisation, and instead have to meet the standards of an accreditation scheme. They do not necessarily have the same standards a VAS or AO however, so you need to undertake additional due diligence to ensure that your needs will be met through receiving training some such a provider, particularly the standards that the accreditation provider sets.  

Training providers who are independent of any accreditation scheme. 

There are training providers who choose not to join any of the above schemes, but still provide first aid training. While there are certainly some very good training providers in this area, you must undertake sufficient research to make sure that your training provider meets standards set out by the HSE. Otherwise, you may find yourself wasting money on a course not fit for purpose. 

In-house training 

You can of course make the decision to do all your relevant training in-house. This may be ideal if you have a large organisation that requires a lot of people to be trained, or if your workplace has very specific needs. However, you will need to ensure that the training you provide is of the same standard set out by the HSE. You will also need to ensure that you implement suitable quality assurance standards and practices. 


In this blog we’ve looked at the five different types of workplace first aid training providers and understand the differences between each of them. Depending on your business needs you may find that one suits your needs more than others. However, if you don’t choose a voluntary aid society, be prepared to undertake your own research to ensure that your selected provider meets not just your workplace requirements, but also the standards set out by the HSE. 

As a voluntary aid society, St John Ambulance Cymru is Wales’ leading first aid training provider. As we mentioned above, the HSE looks to us for guidance, and we play a key role in setting the standards that all other training providers, awarding organisations, and accreditation schemes need to follow.  

We can also offer bespoke training to meet your needs, and if there are six or more employees that need training, then we can come to your workplace to deliver training. Give us a ring today on 0345 678 5646 or email us and we’ll be happy to discuss what first aid training is most suitable for you, as well as give you a quote – all with no obligation.  

Published August 21st 2023

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