What are the responsibilities of the workplace first aider?

What are the responsibilities of the workplace first aider?

First aid emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime to anyone. That includes when we are at work. Typically, we spend around 8 hours a day, five days a week working. Although hybrid working has become the new normal, many of us still spend at least a few days of the week in an office or other place of work. Not just this, but many people work in roles they can’t spend any time working from home, such as those who are working in construction and manufacturing. 

All this time spent at work means that there is the potential for a first aid emergency to occur. This is why there is legislation in the UK implemented by the Health & Safety Executive that requires all employers to “to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.” For the vast majority of the workplaces, having at least one fully trained workplace first aider is considered appropriate and necessary in case one of their employees falls ill and needs urgent help.  

If you are an employer and considering delegating one of your employees to become a workplace first aider, or if you are an employer who has been asked to attend first aid at work training, you may be asking yourself what the responsibilities of a workplace first aider are. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what you will be expected to do as a first aider for your place of work, and some good qualities that all excellent first aiders have in common.  

First aiders have an enormously important role, and it’s important that they are mentally and physically prepared for the situations they may encounter. 

What are the primary responsibilities of a first aider at work? 

First aid is the initial assistance or treatment given to a person who is injured or taken ill. If you are the person who is providing the first stage of treatment, then you will be a first aider 

In the event of a first aid emergency at a place of business, then a workplace first aider will need to be one of the first people on the scene and will need to provide initial medical assistance to preserve life until paramedics or someone more qualified arrives.  

In the best-case scenario, the injured individual will just need some reassurance, or minor medical assistance. In the worst-case however, the intervention of a first aider at work can mean the difference between life and death. Let’s look at some of the important actions a first aider will do within the first few minutes of being made aware of an incident: 

  • Assess the situation quickly and calmly. 

  • Protect yourself and other employees. Don’t put anyone else in danger if it can be avoided. 

  • Prevent cross-infection by washing your hands and wearing gloves if you can.  

  • Comfort and reassure casualties at all times. This is helpful even if the casualty is unresponsive. 

  • Assess the casualty and identify as much as you can what the problem may be. If they are unresponsive, then you must call 999 immediately, or instruct someone else to do so. If the situation progresses, then make sure you keep the emergency services up to date. A more severe situation may result in a faster response time. If the situation is less serious, then call 111. No matter what, you should stay with the casualty until you can leave them in the correct care. 

  • Give early treatment and if there are several injured people, then treat the most severe one first 

Doing a primary survey 

In first aid, a primary survey is a rapid and systematic approach to quickly assess and address life-threatening injuries or conditions. The primary survey focuses on identifying and addressing immediate threats to a person's life or well-being. It is typically performed in a specific order to ensure that critical issues are addressed promptly. There is a useful acronym we use to remember the order in which the actions need to be taken. This is known by some as DR ABC: 

  • D is for DANGER – make sure there is no danger that could cause you to be injured too. 

  • R is for RESPONSE – Speak to them or see if there is any interaction with you. If you feel it’s safe, perhaps you can shake them very lightly to see if they respond. 

  • A is for AIRWAY – you should make sure the airway is unobstructed. 

  • B is for BREATHING – check to see if the casualty is breathing. 

  • C – start CPR – you will need to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation 

How to prepare yourself for responding to an emergency 

Responding to an emergency scenario will probably have a huge emotional and physical impact on you. There are a few key skills that are vital in this kind of scenario, so it’s important that as a first aider, you keep them in mind. 

  • Be calm. It’s understandable in an emergency for people to be scared. By acting calm, you can make sure the person you are responding to feels comfortable with you supporting them. If there are any bystanders, then they will also have confidence in you. By controlling your own emotions and reactions, you will also be able think more clearly, and therefore provide better support. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a few seconds to breathe and recentre yourself. 

  • Communicate effectively. In emergency situations, where time is of the essence and stress levels can be high, clear and concise communication can make a significant difference in the outcomes for the injured or ill person. It fosters trust, enables accurate assessment, and promotes collaboration between first aiders, bystanders, and healthcare professionals. 

  • Stay positive. Staying positive in first aid situations is crucial as it provides emotional support, reduces stress, and enhances clear thinking. A positive attitude fosters confidence, effective teamwork, and better communication among responders. It also sets an example for bystanders. Moreover, maintaining positivity contributes to personal well-being and aids in coping with emotional challenges that may arise. Balancing realism with optimism ensures effective care while instilling hope and reassurance in those requiring assistance. 

  • Take the first initiative. Initiative is essential in first aid as it empowers responders to take proactive and timely actions. When faced with rapidly evolving situations, quick thinking and decisive measures can prevent further harm and save lives. Initiative enables responders to assess and address immediate needs without waiting for explicit instructions, especially when professional help may be delayed.  

  • Work under pressure. Working under pressure is vital in first aid because emergencies often demand swift and efficient responses. High-pressure situations test a first aider's ability to remain focused, make quick decisions, and implement critical interventions. The ability to stay composed under stress ensures effective care delivery, minimizes panic, and maintains a sense of control for both the responder and the injured or ill person.


In conclusion, the responsibilities of a workplace first aider are of utmost importance for maintaining a safe and secure environment. These dedicated individuals play a critical role in responding promptly to emergencies, conducting initial assessments, and administering essential first aid treatments. Their ability to communicate effectively, both with emergency services and those in need, offers reassurance and guidance during stressful situations.  

By identifying potential hazards and promoting safety awareness, they actively contribute to preventing accidents and injuries. Continuous training ensures that first aiders remain well-prepared and capable of handling diverse challenges. Ultimately, the presence of a skilled workplace first aider can significantly impact the well-being and safety of everyone in the organization, making them indispensable guardians of health in any professional setting. 

St John Ambulance Cymru is here to help you become an expert workplace first aider 

St John Ambulance Cymru is the leading first aid training provider in Wales. We offer a wide range of courses to ensure your business is covered from every possible angle. You may be particularly interested in our 3-Day First Aid at Work and 1-Day Emergency First Aid at Work courses, which are designed to meet the required HSE guidelines to become a workplace first aider and workplace emergency first aider respectively. Our qualifications are valid for 3 years, after which we offer a First Aid at Work Requalification course.  

In fact, St John Ambulance Cymru advises the HSE on what is considered appropriate first aid treatment and practice, and all other accredited providers must meet our standards to issue certifications. That’s why if you’re looking for first aid training in Wales, we are the gold standard. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your employees, make sure that your first aider is armed with the best knowledge and skills to save a life.  

Call our Commercial Training team today on 0345 678 5646. You can also send them an email and they will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Published August 11th 2023

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