There’s much more to first-aid training than bandages. Get with the most updated guidelines.


Do you think you have first-aid training covered for your business or facility? You have employees designated as first responders on every floor during every shift. Every two years, they attend scheduled first-aid training, complete assigned courses, and receive a certification card.

You know first-aid training is essential to a solid safety program. But first-aid training shouldn’t be simply routine. A quick evaluation of your current program and incorporating the best practices discussed here can help you improve your first-aid training program.

Clear compliance
With OSHA reporting that approximately four million workplace injuries and illnesses occur annually, preparing workers to provide first aid makes good sense. To help assure that adequate first aid is available to workers in the first few critical minutes of an injury, OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.151(b) states: “In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid.”

“Near proximity” is not precisely defined in the standards. But in workplaces with a risk for serious injuries, the best way for employers to achieve clear compliance is to provide first-aid training to workers.

For first-aid training program recommendations, you can look to OSHA’s Best Practices Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First-Aid Program, accessible at www.osha.gov. The guide outlines key training program elements.

Scientifically sound practices
At the top of the list, OSHA advises providing workers with training materials based on a consensus of scientific evidence. This means the curriculum and practices taught are based on results of scientific research studies and data gathered from reputable agencies and organizations.

The National First Aid Science Advisory Board regularly reviews and evaluates scientific literature on first aid. The board is comprised of clinical volunteers from more than 24 professional associations and institutes. From their critical review of published scientific literature, the board develops a Consensus on Science for First Aid With Treatment Recommendations.

In 2000, the American Heart Association, in collaboration with a number of volunteers, developed the first evidence-based First Aid Guidelines derived from the board’s consensus. Updated every five years, the guidelines are based on the board’s review of scientific literature. In 2004, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross collaborated to develop the 2005 Consensus on Science and Treatment Recommendations for First Aid.

Over the past eight years, First Aid Guidelines have helped solidify first-aid practices. For example, applying cool water to thermal burns to relieve pain has been practiced for many years. But based on scientific evidence, the guidelines tell us that in addition to pain relief, applying cool water is a safe and effective practice to also reduce the degree of injury.1

Treatment to control external bleeding is another example. More than one treatment method has been used over time, from elevating the wound, to pressure points, to applying pressure over the bleeding area. In this case, guidelines state there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the first-aid use of pressure points or elevation of a wounded limb to control bleeding1. Rather, applying direct pressure over the wound is the proven procedure.1 Using unproven procedures such as elevation and pressure points could compromise the effectiveness of direct pressure to control bleeding. And these additional procedures could easily detract from the first-aid provider’s focus on direct pressure.

The National First Aid Science Advisory Board is currently completing review and evaluation of over 45 first-aid topics, including updates for previous topics as well as for several new topics. The next First Aid Guidelines will be released December 2010.

You should seek out training that is updated to follow the most recent first-aid guidelines. Training organizations usually update curriculum within the first year following the release of new guidelines.

Hands-on is a must
Another principle of effective first-aid teaching methods noted in OSHA’s Best Practices Guide is to have students develop “hands-on” skills through use of partner practice, manikins or other training aids.

Art Hough, west coast regional safety manager at Maersk Distribution Services Inc., ensures that every first-aid training class for employees in his region includes hands-on practice. “We have found that the trainees learn from the first-aid material. However, when given the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned, hands-on practice makes a significant difference in achieving a high comfort level with the skills,” says Hough.

Hands-on skills practice with guidance from an instructor for first-aid training students is recommended during classroom courses, as well as “skills practice sessions” with an instructor for online courses. This allows students to practice using first-aid supplies and responding to a person in need of first aid. Workers can improve their mastery of skills, as well as build their confidence to effectively act in an emergency.

Delivery options
Research confirms adults vary tremendously in how they acquire knowledge. No one approach to learning can adequately address the diverse needs, experiences and cultures adults bring to the learning environment. A traditional classroom setting with instructor-led training is the most common delivery method. At organizations where classroom is the only training method, consider offering workers additional options.

Online, or eLearning, courses are increasingly prevalent. A 2007 Global Strategic Business Report says eLearning is used second-most often to deploy learning.2 Safety training ranks in the top three corporate uses for eLearning, based on a user-survey by eLearning eNews.3 This is easy to understand: online training minimizes workers’ time away from the job, eases scheduling logistics, lowers training costs, and serves remote employees.

Aside from the benefits to employers, technology-based solutions allow more room for individual differences in learning styles. Online training offers workers a self-paced and less intimidating learning modality. With 24/7 access, portions of the training can be completed at the convenience of workers. Workers gain more control over their personal learning process. Online training allows workers to enter a risk-free environment — an environment where they can go back and try repeatedly without the embarrassment of making mistakes among peers.

Online training programs should couple online cognitive learning with skills practice and learning assessments by a professional trainer. Doing so can help ensure your workers receive the necessary knowledge and skills to provide first-aid care when required.



References 1 2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care, Part 14: First Aid. Circulation. 2005; 112(suppl IV):IV-196–IV-203. 2 Elearning: A Global Strategic Business Report, Global Industry Analysts, Inc.; July 2007. 3 ELearning ENews, Elliot Masie Learning Consortium Survey; September 2006.