First aid implications of Coronavirus

image of coronavirus as seen under a microscope with text reading first aid implications of coronavirus

As businesses reopen but with coronavirus continuing to be a threat, what changes might you need to make to your first aid arrangements? And what instruction should you provide to your first aiders?

Infection risk

Delivering any form of first aid tends to require close contact, whether it’s handing out a plaster or helping to flush out someone’s eye. But of all the potential first aid scenarios, the delivery of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) creates the greatest infection control risk.

  • Before addressing the mechanics of first aid provision, you’ll need to evaluate whether you continue to have a sufficient number of first aiders.  Note. You may have more than enough if you have fewer staff on site.
  • Review the number of first aid personnel required using the guidelines from the HSE and amend your first aid needs assessment as appropriate.

In practice

The next consideration is the measures required to protect first aiders and those they are treating from possible infection. Coronavirus is spread in close contact with an infected person, particularly during coughing or sneezing. The other route of infection is by touching your own mouth, nose or eyes when your hand has become contaminated. Understandably, some first aiders may feel uncomfortable carrying out their role while there is a risk of infection and this has to be taken into account.

Control measures

Public Health England (PHE) has recently published guidance for first responders and first aiders

  • It’s recommended that where it’s not possible to maintain a two-metre distance, disposable gloves and an apron should be worn. Where a first aider is likely to come into contact with droplets or splashes of blood or other bodily fluids, they are best to wear a fluid-resistant surgical face mask and eye protection such as full-face visor or goggles. These should all be disposed of after use. Ensure that all of this equipment is readily available to first aiders along with resuscitation masks.
  • Ensure that your first aid needs assessment is updated with all additional equipment purchased as a result of your COVID-19 ready workplace.


If required to perform CPR, the advice is for a reduced response in most circumstances.

  • In adults it’s recommended that rescue breaths are not given and instead the first aider should normally use chest compressions alone. This can be as effective as combined CPR in the first few minutes after cardiac arrest.  See advice from the Resuscitation Council UK and also by St John Ambulance regarding CPR in adults.


The PHE guidance should be used to provide an update briefing to all first aiders as soon as possible. You should also inform them of any amendments to your own first aid needs assessment, internal procedures and the personal protective equipment which is available to them.  Also checkout additional advice provided by the health and safety executive


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