Responsibilities of a First Aider
Updated: Apr 26
Most people who become first aiders do it as an additional role, which they (may or may not) have volunteered for. Once you become a first aider though, you're likely to have additional responsibilities to undertake, which may be formally laid out, but are often not. This blog outlines the responsibilities that you may have and should act as a checklist for you once you've completed your course.
Risk assessment and first aid kits
Someone in your organisation has probably carried out a risk assessment, which may be what resulted in you attending a course. This subject is covered in a previous post, so I won't cover it again here.
The risk assessment should have also determined what first aid equipment is required in your organisation and someone will usually have been given responsibility for looking after it. I often find that this person has since left the organisation and this responsibility has fallen through the cracks. So here's my advice...
Firstly, find the person responsible for health and safety and ask them what the system is for managing first aid equipment in the organisation. If there's a system, great, but it might be worth checking that it's working, since you're the one who's going to need the kit. It would be rubbish to open the first aid box in a serious situation and find a couple of sweet wrappers and a green paper towel.
If there's no system, or you want to make sure that the system is working, you might want to do some checks...
Does the first aid risk assessment state how many first aid kits and AEDs there should be, and where they should be located (buildings, vehicles etc)?
Are the kits and AEDs where they're supposed to be?
Do they have a contents list and is everything present?
Is everything in date and undamaged?
Is the AED working properly (most will have some form of indicator or test function)?
Once you've done these checks, you'll have a good idea of where the kits are and what's in each one, in case you ever need it. You'll also have the confidence that the equipment you need is there and working.
In previous roles where I've had a responsibility for clinical kit, I've found that 'tagging' kit with plastic security seals is useful. Once you've checked the kit, you tag it and write the soonest expiry date of the contents, so that every month all you have to do is check that it's still tagged and in date.
If you work in an organisation that also holds medication, it would be worth finding out what the system is for storing, checking and accessing it, should the need arise.
Giving first aid
You should now be competent to respond to a first aid incident, and know what kit you have available. There are a few responsibilities within this area that are worth remembering...
Keep yourself and everyone else safe. Identify and manage any hazards, including the risk of infection - use gloves, goggles and face masks as appropriate.
Assess the situation. Try and work out what has happened - are there any clues to the mechanism of injury or illness, could they have internal bleeding or spinal injuries?
Get help if needed. This might be just calling over a colleague for a second opinion but may also involve shouting for help or calling 111 or 999 and asking for 'ambulance'. Remember, it's the ambulance service's responsibility to decide whether to attend or not, so never feel bad about calling.
Prioritise treatment. Remember your primary survey - airway, breathing, circulation (ABC).
Keep the blood on the inside and the air going in and out - everything else is of secondary importance.
Don't forget to gain informed consent if the patient has capacity. Do this by simply asking whether they'd like you to help and talking about what you'd like to do - don't forget it's their body! By going along with what you're doing they're implying consent.
If they're refusing help and you think they need it, they probably either don't have capacity or they're not that ill, but in either case call 111 or 999 and pass it on to the ambulance service.
Any accident at work must be recorded in an accident book, and other organisations would be wise to follow this principle. This process allows organisations to track incidents and update risk assessments to minimise future harm. A few points to note:
An accident book is a legal document and will provide useful evidence in the event of a court case. Much better than memory.
Write only facts, not opinion, at the time of the incident, using a pen.
Whilst the accident book focuses mainly on the details of the incident, you may also want to complete a casualty or patient report form. This is more of a clinical form and allows you to record the details of your primary and secondary surveys, your observations, your treatment and what happened next.
Some organisations who are responsible for looking after children, such as schools and early years settings, will also have paperwork to give to the parents or carers of a child who has been potentially injured or ill. This is to let them know what happened so that they can take any follow up action that may become necessary.
Wherever you operate as a first aider, it's worth finding out what the system is for recording and reporting first aid incidents.
As personal details will have been recorded on all of these forms, once completed they must be kept confidential in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act and GDPR.
So in summary, becoming a first aider isn't just about putting plasters on people! Make sure there are systems in place in your organisation for looking after the first aid equipment and for recording and reporting incidents.
Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to know more, or would like help to get the systems right in your organisation.