First Aid during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Guidance for First Aid within workplaces during the Coronavirus outbreak.

First aid provision in non-healthcare settings

To assist employers ensure first aiders are confident that they can help someone injured or ill at work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak HSENI have provided this guidance. Employers and their first aiders should also be aware of the specific guidance on giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from the Resuscitation Council UK

Emergency service professionals, such as NHS ambulance workers, will receive specific advice from their employer.

Employers check of first aid needs assessment

As an employer, when reviewing the risk assessment to include working during the outbreak, consider refreshing the first aid at work needs assessment. Ask the first aiders if there are any factors that should be taken into account as part of the risk assessment, for example vulnerable workers with first aid responsibilities.

Discuss the risk assessment with the first aiders so they are confident about providing the right assistance. This includes knowing what equipment they can use to minimise risk of infection transmission, as explained below.

Guidance for first aiders administering first aid 

Try to assist at a safe distance from the casualty as much as you can and minimise the time you share a breathing zone. If they are capable, tell them to do things for you, but treating the casualty properly should be your first concern. Remember the 3P model – preserve life, prevent worsening, promote recovery.

Preserve life: CPR

  • Call 999 immediately – tell the call handler if the patient has any COVID-19 symptoms
  • Ask for help. If a portable defibrillator is available, ask for it
  • Before starting CPR, to minimise transmission risk, use a cloth or towel to cover the patient’s mouth and nose, while still permitting breathing to restart following successful resuscitation
  • If available, use:
    • a fluid-repellent surgical mask
    • disposable gloves
    • eye protection
    • apron or other suitable covering
  • Only deliver CPR by chest compressions and use a defibrillator (if available) – don’t do rescue breaths

Prevent worsening, promote recovery: all other injuries or illnesses

  • If you suspect a serious illness or injury, call 999 immediately – tell the call handler if the patient has any COVID-19 symptoms
  • If giving first aid to someone, you should use the recommended equipment listed above if it is available
  • You should minimise the time you share a breathing zone with the casualty and direct them to do things for you where possible

After delivering any first aid

  • Ensure you safely discard disposable items and clean reusable ones thoroughly
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser as soon as possible.

First aid cover and qualifications during the outbreak

First aid cover  

If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak or first aid training cannot be accessed, there are some measures that can be taken to maintain legal compliance. By reviewing the first aid needs assessment and deciding if the same cover can still be provided for the workers present and the activities they are doing. If fewer people are coming into a workplace it may still be safe to operate with reduced first aid cover. Give consideration to stopping higher-risk activities.

Shared First Aid Cover

First aiders could be shared with another business but only if they have the knowledge, experience and availability to cover the first aid needs of the other business assigned to them. Therefore shared first aiders must be aware of the type of injuries or illnesses that are identified in the first aid needs assessment and have the training and skills to address them. They must also know enough about the work environment, including its first aid facilities and equipment and be able to get to the workplace in good time to respond.

First aid certificate extensions


HSENI is aware that people holding first aid at work certificates nearing expiry date, might experience disruption to access to requalification training as a result of events or circumstances generated by the coronavirus pandemic.

If requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with coronavirus or by complying with related government advice, HSENI would consider it reasonable and practical to extend the validity of current certificates by up to 3 months.  Staff should make use of available resources (written or online) to refresh their knowledge where possible.

Anyone taking advantage of this extension should be able to describe clearly their reasons for delaying requalification training, and demonstrate steps they have taken to undertake the training, if required. This guidance comes into effect for licenses expiring on or after 16th March 2020.  HSENI will review this matter over the coming months and will issue further statements as necessary.

Following a further review, it is anticipated that there will be opportunity for first aid requalification training to be undertaken, with HSENI setting as a final deadline for this qualification to be obtained by 30 September 2020.

First Aid Training

If first aiders are unable to access annual refresher training face to face during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, HSENI supports the use of online refresher training to keep their skills up to date. However, it is still strongly recommended that the practical elements of actual FAW, EFAW and requalification courses are delivered face to face, so that competency of the student can be properly assessed.

If because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak training was interrupted and not completed within the usual timeframe, training can restart at a later date as long as: a full recap of training delivered before the interruption is done, before starting the undelivered modules. With the Awarding Body being content that a full understanding of all aspects of the course content is shown, with the knowledge required and competencies at the end of the training.