HSE Statement on companies seeking to shorten course times or exceed Trainer:Learner ratios

Executive Summary:

Some Companies request First Aid at Work courses that are shorter than the recommended 6/12/18 hours or that exceed 12 learners per trainer in order to cut costs. If a Company is inspected by the HSE or a Local Authority (e.g. in the context of a Workplace accident) and it has used a training company that is complicit, then the Company will need to explain and justify why it considers that this reduced training is appropriate and/or adequate. If you are looking for First Aid Training, do not skimp on (or use a Company that skimps on) training time or class size.


It has been known for a while now that there are First Aid Training Companies that will deliver First Aid Training in timescales that are under the HSE recommended contact hours (6 hours for Emergency First Aid at Work, 12 hours for Requalification and 18 hours for the full First Aid at Work course). In addition, some Training Companies will deliver courses that have more than 12 learners per trainer. Some Companies deliver the Training internally and cut corners this way, too.

Both methods result in lower costs for the Business receiving the training, however it also means that staff receive inadequate training and are less competent when it comes to an actual accident or incident.

As the HSE guidelines are just that – guidelines – this is not illegal, however a Business does need to provide adequate and appropriate First Aid training for its staff and would need to evidence this should they be inspected by the HSE or Local Authority. If the inspection visit is due to an accident or incident, the Business will find it hard to prove that it has carried out due diligence on the Training Provider. The onus lies with the Business.

This has long been recognised as an issue and the HSE has now formalised a response to clarify its position:

First Aid at Work Training – A Notice For Employers And Training Providers

This is a joint statement by the Health and Safety Executive and the *First Aid at Work Quality Partnership (FAWQP)

It has been brought to the attention of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that some organisations seeking to commission First Aid at Work (FAW) training have required the training to be delivered over significantly shorter time periods than those recommended in HSE guidance and with student/trainer ratios that could compromise the effectiveness of the training.

The HSE guidance strongly recommends that First Aid at Work training (FAW) should be for 18 hours over a minimum period of 3 days and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) 6 hours over a minimum of 1 day. FAW requalification training should be for 12 hours over a minimum of 2 days, and all of these recommended periods exclude breaks.

Class sizes for the training should be appropriate. For example, where first-aid training is provided in class sizes of greater than 12, unless additional trainers and/or assessors are provided there may be concerns over addressing the training needs of individual candidates or adequately assessing their competence.

We believe that adhering to the recommended training hours and having appropriate trainer/student ratios are important factors in ensuring that the training syllabus is covered adequately and that students absorb fully what they have learned and are able to demonstrate relevant competencies.

Employers are required to undertake due diligence when selecting their first aid training and may be asked to demonstrate to an HSE or local authority inspector that their first aid provision is adequate and appropriate.

*The First Aid at Work Quality Partnership membership includes a wide range of first aid training standard setters and providers and responsible bodies of medical opinion. The following organisations have added their endorsements to this important statement.

  • British Red Cross
  • First Aid Awarding Organisations forum (FAAOF)
  • First Aid Industry Body (FAIB)
  • Royal Life Saving Society
  • St Andrew’s First Aid
  • St John Ambulance
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service

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