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Find Answers to a Range of Frequently Asked Questions.
Select a topic area from the below lists to learn more.
The following are a selection of the most common questions which we are asked via email, on the website or from candidates on our courses. Click on any of the topics to find a basic answer to the question, where you'll also find links to more detailed resources.
We'll continue to add to these questions as they arrive. If you have a question that is not answered here, feel free to drop us a line.
First Aid Incidents, Illnesses & Treatments
"Adrenaline auto-injector" is the general name for a range of medical devices which are used in the short-term, emergency treatment of an anaphylactic (serious allergic) reaction. They are often also known by their most common brand-names: Epipen®, the Jext® Pen and the Emerade®
They are regularly carried by sufferers of extreme allergic reactions, and are used to reduce the symptoms of the reaction, giving time for important emergency treatment to be sought.
We have more detailed information on our adrenaline autoinjector page. If you have colleagues or people in your care who suffer from serious allergic reactions, you can find out more by booking an Anaphylaxis and Epipen course, or attending a First Aid at Work or Paediatric first aid course.
It's a life threatening allergy characterised by:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the mouth and throat, and
Collapse and unconsciousness follow swiftly. The whole body is affected by the reaction usually within minutes of exposure to the allergen.
If you'd like any more information, do take a look at our Anaphylaxis post or, if you work with people who suffer with the condition, your can book us to come to your workplace to run an Anaphylaxis course for you and your staff.
Angina is a condition that affects the heart. It affects the arteries that provide the blood flow to the heart muscle. Over time these arteries can become furred up with cholesterol plaques. Cholesterol is a fatty deposit that is found in the bloodstream but which can adhere to the lining of the arteries causing them to narrow and harden.
Angina attacks occur mainly when a person is exercising or doing something that requires the heart to pump faster. As the arteries have narrowed and hardened, they are unable to expand as much as they should to allow to extra volume of blood through. This mean that the areas of the heart that are requiring extra oxygen to pump harder are deprived of oxygen and begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation.
The heart pumps blood around the body and can increase the volume it pumps as required when we exercise or are anxious, but to do this requires more oxygen. If the arteries have become narrowed, the extra blood containing the additional oxygen can’t get through to meet the demand and so the area beyond the narrowing is deprived of oxygen. This causes the pain associated with angina.
As angina is usually associated with exercise it usually goes away with rest.
Asthma is the reaction caused when an asthmatic person comes into contact with one of their asthmatic triggers.
The muscle wall of their air passages contract, making the airways narrow and become inflamed and swollen. A sticky mucus is also produced by the cells lining the air passages that causes further narrowing.
Symptoms can be mild, causing discomfort and slight shortness of breath or they can be serious, in which case hospitalisation or even death may follow.
For more information on the condition, triggers, symptoms and treatments, take a look at our Asthma page.
A burn is used to describe the damaging of the skin by heat. A scald is simply a specific type of burn, which is caused by wet heat, for example boiling water from a kettle.
If you'd like more information on burns and scalds, take a look at our post: What are burns and scalds. Alternatively you can come along to one of our first aid courses. The Emergency First Aid at Work course covers them in minor detail. And there's more detailed information on the First Aid at Work and Paediatric courses.
Cardiac arrest is the medical term used when your heart has stopped working effectively as a pump to pump blood containing oxygen around the body.
When something goes wrong with either the pumping mechanism or the electrical activity that controls the heart then your heart may cease to beat effectively. This is known as cardiac arrest.
If no one is available to start cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) both the heart muscle and the brain suffer irreversible damage leading to death.
We've written a post on the causes, symptoms and treatments of cardiac arrest. It also has links to other useful resources.
CPR is the abbreviation for Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. It is defined by the Collins English Dictionary (full version) as:
“an emergency measure to revive a patient whose heart as stopped beating, in which compressions applied with the hands to the patient’s chest are alternated with mouth to mouth respiration” .
Indications for commencing CPR are an unconscious casualty who is unresponsive and not breathing normally.
If you'd like more information, take a look at our comprehensive guide to resuscitation which gives lots of information on when, why and how to give CPR. You'll also find some key statistics and answers to lots of questions such as:
- Why are Defibrillators important in CPR?
- What are the differences between adult and child CPR?
- Are breaths necessary in CPR?
- Can CPR cause internal bleeding?
- Can I be sued for causing injury while doing CPR? and
- Is free online CPR training any good?
If you'd like to learn how to carry out cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, CPR training is one of the major elements of workplace first aid courses including the 1-day efaw, two-day rfaw and 3-day faw courses, and is also taught as annual updates in Dental CPD training and courses for healthcare professionals.
Diabetes is a condition caused by the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels normally. There are two types:
- Type 1- Insulin dependant
- Type 2 Tablet / or diet controlled
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes usually manifests itself in early childhood or adolescence but can appear at other times in life. It is largely a genetic problem in which the pancreas fails to produce the hormone insulin to regulate the sugar levels in the blood. The sufferer has to inject him or herself several times a day with insulin in order to maintain normal levels. This is a lifelong condition, and accounts for between 5% and 15% of all people with diabetes.
Occasionally diabetes may develop in pregnancy when it is known as gestational diabetes and in most cases this condition does resolve once the baby is born.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes generally develops later in life, although the trend is that the onset of type 2 diabetes is becoming earlier. Type 2 diabetes is generally caused by the pancreas failing to produce enough insulin and so the person needs to carefully regulate their diet and in particular their carbohydrate intake. In addition, they will usually need to take medication in order to control their condition. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85% and 95% of all people with diabetes.
Note: Type 2 diabetics may go to develop type 1 diabetes and so require insulin, but type 1 diabetics never revert back to type 2.
For more information, see our post on diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.
Fainting is a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness which results in the casualty falling. It happens when the blood flow to the brain is reduced.
The brain needs a lot of oxygen to keep it functioning and any reduction in blood flow to the brain will result in fainting. Usually someone will recover from a faint quickly, as once the casualty has fallen over blood flow to the brain is restored.
Causes of faints
A variety of factors can cause fainting, including:
- emotional stress
- lack of food
- long periods of standing still
- heat exhaustion
- early stages of pregnancy
Symptoms of impending fainting include:
- feeling odd
- blurred vision
If someone feels faint the best thing to do is to help them lie down and gently elevate their feet. This encourages blood flow to return to their brain. Loosen tight clothing at the neck If someone has not regained consciousness within 2 minutes then place them on their side in the recovery position to maintain their airway and dial 999 or 112. Stay with the person until help arrives.
Most faints are very short lived and don’t need further medical attention, if however faints are occurring regularly then professional medical attention needs to be sought.
A fracture is a broken bone. With over 200 bones in the body there is plenty of potential to cause some harm and it is often difficult to tell whether one is broken or whether there is just soft tissue damage. If in doubt always seek medical advice.
The only way to accurately determine whether a fracture has happened is to x-ray the affected bone. Damage to bones occurs usually as a result of the following forces:
- direct force - landing directly on the affected part
- indirect force - landing on another part of the body and the shock waves travel up the bones to the next weakest point causing that to break e.g landing on an outstretched hand, often causes the collar bone to give way.
- twisting force
- shearing force
- pathological causes (old age, brittle bones, osteoporosis etc)
Types of fracture
Fractures tend to present in 4 main ways:
- closed simple fractures – the bone had broken but not moved position
- open – where the bone protrudes through the skin or where there is a wound leading down to break
- complicated- where other structures are involved or where the bone breaks in multiple places
- greenstick- commonly seen in children, where the bone only partially breaks or cracks.
Possible Signs and Symptoms of Fractures
- history of an injury- always consider the mechanism of injury, i.e how did the injury occur?
- loss of power
- lack of movement
- noise- did the person hear it snap or can you hear crepitus (grating sound caused by the ends of the bone rubbing against each other)
- shock- often the biggest clue that someone has hurt themselves
The main symptoms of a heart attack are:
- chest pain that may feel as if the chest is being squeezed hard and may radiate up into the jaw, down the arms and through to the back
- shortness of breath
- overwhelming anxiety
First Aid Treatment for a heart attack includes:
If you suspect someone is having a heart attack:
- dial 999
- stay with the person until help arrives.
- Keep them in a comfortable position that reduces the amount of work the heart has to do.
- Try to stay calm and help the casualty stay calm too.
- Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
Be prepared to resuscitate if they become unconscious.
The First Aid at Work course also covers heart attack symptoms and treatment in more detail.
Cardiac arrest and a heart attack are two entirely different situations.
A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops functioning altogether and stops pumping blood around the body. The casualty is unconscious and not breathing. CPR must be performed immediately.
A heart attack is one of the most common causes of cardiac arrest along with choking and electrocution.
The blood supply to the heart muscle is blocked and the area beyond the blockage is starved of oxygen. This causes that part of the heart muscle to die.
If you'd like more information, take a look at our more detailed article on cardiac arrest and heart attacks.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are tissues that attach bones together.
A strain is damage caused to muscle fibres, usually caused by stretching or tearing of the fibres. Most muscle strains happen when the muscle fibres are overstretched or forced to contract too tightly.
We have an article on treatment of sprains and sprains if you'd like more details.
A stroke is a condition that affects your brain. It is to the brain what a heart attack is to the heart.
Your brain needs a good supply of oxygen to function and it gets this via our blood supply. A stroke happens when the blood supply is cut off to part of the brain, causing some of its cells to die.
Sometimes this is caused by blood clots, in the same way that heart attacks occur or sometimes it happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
A stroke is a medical emergency and the person needs urgent medical care to reduce the clot or stop the bleeding.
Take a look at our article to find out about the signs and symptoms of stroke.
Managing Health & Safety in Your Workplace
An appointed person is someone who's responsible for first aid equipment and procedures within an organisation. This role is particularly relevant in the smallest of organisations which have no trained first aiders.
In other organisations, this role is absorbed into the role of the first aiders, or the manager(s) responsible for first aid.
There is no formal appointed person training, as the role of appointed person has largely been absorbed into the activities of a workplace first aider. As a result, training for the activities carried out by an appointed person is included in workplace first aid courses such as the Emergency First Aid or First Aid at Work courses.
Those activities can include managing first aid kits, being responsible for signage, calling emergency services or recording illnesses and injuries.
We would always recommend having trained first aiders within your organisation, even if your workplace is small enough for them not to be legally required. Having first aid skills in place before an emergency is always much better than getting trained after something bad has happened.
A first aider is someone who has undergone formal training, and has current first aid certification, that is approved by the HSE (usually via an Awarding Organisation). They must therefore hold a valid certificate in either:
In each case, these certificates must be issued by a training organisation approved by the HSE. This can be awarded by a recognised awarding body of OfQual / Scottish Qualifications Authority.
You should use your risk assessment to determine whether your first aiders should hold the FAW or the EFAW certificate.
HSE strongly recommend that all first aiders undertake a First Aid skills update to refresh their skills annually.
The number of first aiders you need depends on the circumstances in your workplace, such as the level of risk that you've identified and number of employees you have.
Also, where employees work on different shifts, in different buildings or across different sites, you'll need extra first aiders.
And you should also make sure that you have enough first aiders to allow for forseeable absences, such as holidays, off-site meetings etc.
You should identify all of this information during your risk assessment. Once you've done so, you should put in place suitable plans to make sure that your risks are minimised, and that suitable first aid provision is available to care for casualties.
Being a first aider is a responsible position, so you need to think about the most suitable staff you have to carry it out.
If your company’s risk assessment has indicated that the company needs one first aider (at a time), at least two should be trained to the same level. That will ensure that you have suitable cover when one is off-sick or on holiday.
First aiders must be able to immediately leave their normal duties without notice to be able to attend to a person who has become ill or injured.
The first aider needs to be someone who can:
- attend a first aid course and pass the assessments, demonstrating competence in the field
- leave their role or normal duties to be able to deliver first aid
- be close enough ideally to get to any part of the building (or site) within 3 minutes, preferably sooner
- be calm and reassuring
- be confident and conscientious
- be clear headed under pressure
- be able to assess a situation quickly and grasp enormity of it
- be capable of making decisions quickly and decisively
- be unconcerned by the sight of blood!
- Be empowered to issue first aid instructions to all members of the workforce, regardless of their role and seniority within the company
- have good communication skills
- be practical and resourceful
- be able to improvise if necessary
How long a first aid certificate lasts for really depends on the type of qualification you're talking about.
If you're holding a certificate for a regulated first aid course (any of the 'at work' series, or a Paediatric first aid) then it'll be every three years. Once that date has gone, you can't be a first aider until you've completed your renewal. For other courses, the validity is usually shorter (between 1 and 1.5 years).
Of course validity is only part of the story - if you're not confident in your skills because you trained two years ago and haven't used your skills since, it's worth considering a skills refresher, or a renewal.
Take a look at our article which explains how long different types of first aid certificates are valid for.
Ever since 2011 there has been a new British Standard BS8599 for first aid kits.
Although this standard is not mandatory for companies, it gives a good indication of the contents that you should be looking to have in your kits.
The Standard itself has been updated several times since 2011, with in-vehicle kits being added in the BS8599-2 (2014) update and a second update BS8599-1:2019 in January 2019.
The British Standard Kits come in 4 sizes, small, medium, large and travel. Your risk assessment will tell you which size of kit and quantity is suitable for your environment.
We've produced a post which gives you a list of recommended first aid kit contents for each of the four kit sizes. Also, it gives you advice on locating and replenishing your kits.
A risk is the chance, whether high or low, of a hazard causing harm to individuals, and the level of harm that could be caused.
Examples of risks are:
- Electricity could cause burns or electric shock
- Slip and trip hazards could cause fractures, sprains, strains and lacerations
- Heavy machinery could cause crush injuries, amputations, fractures, lacerations and eye injuries.
As part of an organisation’s risk assessment, effort should be made to identify (and ideally document) the full range of hazards present in the workplace, and to record the potential risks that they pose to staff and visitors.
Workplace first aid training, first aid kits and other equipment and measures required to counteract these risks should be recorded, along with a plan of how to implement them. This plan should then be implemented to a timetable. Finally, the plan should be reviewed on a regular basis, to ensure that the information and response remain relevant.
RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.
It was introduced in 1995, and has since gone through a few updates and enhancements.
It gives you:
- a detailed RIDDOR definition
- the types of incidents you need to record
- what information you need to record about them
- how long you need to retain the information
- which of the above incidents you need to report, and to whom, and
- how the information should be reported
It also helps you to plan your recording processes, and as a result, gives you the information you need to reduce the number of such incidents in the future.
Our guide to RIDDOR reporting provides you with lots of easy-to-understand information on how to comply with the regulations.