What is First Aid? Know these 7 first aid skills

Table of Contents

What is First Aid?

First Aid is defined as the initial and immediate assistance provided to someone who is ill or injured, before professional medical help being provided. First aid is a worldwide skill, so there are other definitions of first aid, but in principle, they all mean and imply the same thing.  

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Aim of First Aid

The aim of first aid is the 3 P’s – Preserve, Prevent and Promote.

Preserve – Preserving someone’s life by placing them in the recovery position.  

Prevent – Prevent further injury or the condition from worsening, such as rapidly cooling a severe and recent burn wound

Promote – Promoting recovery by performing effective CPR as the patient may respond and wake up or survive with no long-term complications.  

Accidents (knocking your head and becoming unconscious) and emergencies (heart condition like a heart attack) can occur unexpectedly and at any time and the sooner emergency care or healthcare can be administered the better. 

However, it is unrealistic and impossible to have first aiders, paramedics, nurses, doctors, or the emergency medical service on standby outside every workplace or home, waiting for an emergency to occur. First aid is a skill that can be provided and applied in the workplace among work colleagues, or within the home or personal environment between friends and family. First aid is therefore part of the whole healthcare system, even if it is basic first aid or basic care, this assistance can save someone’s life.        

importance of first aid

Four reasons why first aid is important

First aid is a critically important skill that must be applied as it is a proven fact that first aid can prevent an emergency or medical condition from worsening. Listed below are some of the reasons why first aid is important:

  1. Quick immediate care – First aiders are generally immediately available to render care and keep someone alive until professional help arrives. Also making sure that the emergency service are called quickly when needed, is a vitally important first aid function;
  2. CPR – During CPR first aid is the skill that keep circulation and blood flow going and the rescue breathing in CPR , keeps the blood oxygenated which keeps the cells of the brain and parts of the body alive; 
  3. Recognising immediate care needed – One of the critical steps of first aid is to have the ability to recognise emergency first aid care conditions that require immediate attention, such as trying and stop bleeding. By applying simple direct pressure to a bleeding wound, the patient’s life saving bodily fluids (blood) are retained / not lost and their condition may stabilise, or not get any worse; 
  4. Scene control – A good first aider is also able to assist in managing an entire scene and provide some additional advice and control, often preventing others from also being injured or just calming the patient down (reducing their heart rate), which is often very important.   
first aid skills

7 most important first aid skills

These BLS or basic life support skills or actions listed below are some of the most important skills a first aider can perform and may well assist in saving someone’s life:   

  1. CPR – Performing effective CPR and providing good chest compressions and rescue breathing, to keep oxygenated blood flowing;
  2. AED – Finding an Automated External Defibrillator and shocking a patient in cardiac arrest to bring back their heart beat;
  3. 10177 / 112 / 082-911/ 084-124 – Calling the emergency services, paramedics or ambulance as soon as possible to ensure that help is on the way;
  4. Lateral recovery position – Placing an unconscious patient / loss of consciousness into the lateral recovery position can keep their airway open so that they are able to breath and fluid can passively drain out their mouth and throat and not into their lungs; 
  5. Stop bleeding – By using a first aid kit bandage or even a towel to provide direct pressure on a bleeding wound will slow or stop bleeding. Blood is a precious fluid (and in short supply) which we all need in order to survive. 
  6. First aid equipment availability – There must be adequate first aid equipment available at home and at work for use such as a fully stocked first aid kit, first aid room or facility at work where a casualty could be treated in private;     
  7. Keeping general first aid knowledge current – It is important to ensure that your first aid certificate is always valid and thereby your general first aid knowledge will be current. This will ensure that the first aiders is able to manage emergency conditions such as the recognizing signs of shock, how to treat an allergic reaction from an insect sting (or having eaten something) or hyper and hypothermia etc.        
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Levels of first aid

There are three different first aid levels available within South Africa and part of the national qualifications framework (NQF), which is now part of government regulation and have different NQF levels namely NQF level 1, 2, and 3. They are however very similar in content and each contains good general first aid knowledge and content. 

Absolute Health Service is accredited to offer all three NQF first aid courses. It is now law and a regulation requirement that first aid training may only be conducted by an accredited training company which is called a skills development provider, whose courses are the three NQF approved courses. We can present the first aid courses at your premises anywhere in the country as long as you have 8 a minimum of 8 delegates, or at one of our training venues situated in Johannesburg North, Durban, Port Elizabeth, or Cape Town.   

Who Should Attend First Aid Training for The Workplace?

No prior learning is required for the First Aid NQF Level 1 course so most people can attend either in a private or work capacity. The course covers subjects ranging from scene safety and primary surveys, to assisting someone who is having breathing problems or suffering from a minor illness.

The difference between an appointed person and the first aider is as follows:

An appointed person does not necessarily need to be trained in first aid. They could just be responsible for overseeing the first aid kit or box and making sure that it is always fully stocked. A first aider has done an accredited first aid course and they are qualified to deal with any first aid emergency procedures.

The number of first aiders an employer needs depends on the number of employees in the company. Accredited first aid training of employees within all workplace environments is a legal requirement, and as per the OHS Act, a ratio of 1 first aider to 50 employees is a minimum. A risk assessment can be conducted to find out a company’s specific health and safety needs, and this would include their first aid requirements as well. 

First aid requirements of a company can be determined by assessing the following criteria:

  • What is the nature of the work involved;
  • What are the specific workplace hazards and risks; 
  • How big is the workforce;
  • What are the office hours;
  • Is there any remote working involved;
  • Does your company have a history of accidents, and if so what are they?
  • Are any of the locations remote and far away from the emergency medical services;
  • Are any of the office locations in a shared building;
  • Is there a need to provide first-aid provision for non-employees;

Who Should Administer First Aid?

First aid, a critical aspect of health and safety in any environment, involves immediate aid treatment for various emergencies without necessarily needing professional medical training. It’s vital to understand that anyone, regardless of their profession or background, can and should learn basic first aid. While professional emergency care remains essential, administering emergency first aid in the interim can be life-saving for a casualty facing a life-threatening condition.

Workplace Scenarios:

  • Appointed Persons: These individuals oversee the accessibility and readiness of first aid kits, ensuring they’re well-stocked with aid equipment. They may not necessarily possess formal first aid training.
  • Qualified First Aiders: Individuals who have completed accredited first aid courses and are equipped to handle diverse first aid emergencies. Their training empowers them to assess the casualty, recognize life-threatening conditions, and respond effectively until professional medical assistance arrives.

Determining First Aid Requirements:

The number of first aiders in a workplace is often determined by the company’s size and the inherent risks of the environment. According to the OHS Act, a minimum ratio of 1 first aider per 50 employees is advisable, but this might change based on risk assessments tailored to the specific workplace’s health and safety needs.

Inclusive First Aid Training:

Employers must provide accredited first aid training as a legal obligation. However, the importance of widespread first aid knowledge extends beyond legal compliance. It’s about fostering a safer environment for everyone involved, including employees and non-employees who might be present in the workspace.

Considerations for Determining First Aid Needs:

  • Nature of Work: Assess the type of tasks performed and potential risks associated.
  • Workplace Hazards: Identify specific risks inherent to the workplace environment, requiring a good first aider’s prompt response.
  • Workforce Size: Consider the number of employees in relation to first aid provision and the need for emergency care.
  • Work Hours and Remote Work: Evaluate whether the office operates around the clock or includes emergency situations requiring only moving aid.
  • History of Accidents: Learn from past incidents to strengthen first aid preparedness, including assessing the casualty effectively.
  • Proximity to Emergency Services: Consider how accessible emergency medical services are from different office locations during an emergency.
  • Shared Building Concerns: Address any unique challenges related to shared office spaces and the provision of first-aid treatment.
  • First-Aid Provision for Non-Employees: Consider situations where non-employees might need emergency first aid assistance within the workspace, emphasizing the importance of quick aid treatment.

In essence, the spectrum of individuals who can administer first aid extends beyond healthcare professionals. Empowering a workforce with basic first aid skills is not just a legal necessity but a fundamental step towards ensuring a safer and more responsive environment for all concerning health and safety.

First Aid Kit Checklist

Ensure that you always have a correctly stocked First Aid Box in your workplace as per the Regulation 7.

Download our free checklist to keep on hand so that your are to respond to emergencies effectively.