• Tim

Trainer Competence

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Having had another learner tell me a scary story of something they were taught on a previous course, I thought I'd put pen to paper...

Q. What qualification does someone need to have to deliver an accredited First Aid at Work qualification?

A. A First Aid at Work qualification...

That‘s right, the same qualification that they are delivering! Now I don’t know about you, but I find this amazing. Obviously there are plenty of trainers out there who are more competent than the minimum standard, but my experience is that this is a minority.

Can you think of another area of Health and Safety training where the trainer can have the same level of competence that the learners will have at the end of the course?

Personally, I like the people who train me to be significantly more technically competent than I will be, so that I can learn from their in-depth knowledge and experience. On top of that, I expect them to conduct the training in a way that is engaging, enjoyable and effective. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Does it matter?

Well, I guess that depends. It's true that you can be far more competent than your qualifications suggest, but the bar has been set pretty low. If you just want to meet the minimum standard (ie. because the law requires it) then technically you can tick the box by having anyone deliver your courses. But if you want to develop competence in your first aiders, through an engaging and effective learning intervention, then we think it does matter.


In my view, the consequences of having first aiders who have been trained by someone with little relevant knowledge or experience can be huge.

Consider this scenario. Your close relative is in work one day when they suffer a heart attack out of the blue. This rapidly deteriorates in to a cardiac arrest and the first aider is there to fill the gap before the ambulance arrives.

Since what happens in these few minutes can be the difference between life and death, do you want the first aider to have been trained by someone with minimal competence, or with significantly more?


This is perhaps an example from one end of the spectrum, but it goes across all areas of first aid. I often hear from learners about previous courses and the things they've been told. Some are simply out of date, some significantly, some are first aid myths that are well known, and some are just plain nonsense. As a recent example...

If you have an object embedded in an eye, you should cover both eyes with polystyrene cups and put a hole in the bottom of one so that the object can stick through...

I once had a student who was petrified when it came to putting someone in the recovery position (essentially putting someone on their side). She’d previously been taught the ‘steps’ (that were presumably in a manual) and felt that she had been ’told off’ for missing one of them... This sort of training misses the point by a country mile and clearly is not a good way to learn.

Clinical 'shock' is another subject that I find has often been taught badly or wrong. It's not easy to get your head around to start with, and you need to have a deep understanding of it before you can teach it effectively. It's in both the Emergency and the full First Aid at Work courses.

...and everyone seems to think that the treatment for a 'mild' choking (where the person can cough) is to give them back blows and abdominal thrusts. It isn't.

Who's competent?

Well, that's not easy to define as it's not a binary question. For instance, being a doctor or a nurse doesn't necessarily make you a good first aid trainer. I've had to retrain people after they've been incorrectly trained by a GP, on more than one occasion. There are lots of different types of healthcare professionals who are specialist in their own areas, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they know anything about first aid. GPs have to undergo annual first aid training themselves...

So, next time you're thinking about booking a first aid course, it might be worth asking who the trainer will be...