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Time to apply first aid to your corporate strategy

October 2010

Society will benefit if firms give emergency medical training to all of their employees, argues Sue Killen

Official statistics show that every year, in England and Wales alone, up to 150,000 people die in situations where first aid could have given them a chance to live. Yet rarely is the provision of first aid training regarded as a core social responsibility issue for business. The corporate world, as much as any segment of society, has the potential to make a huge impact in this area – as well as to reap its own benefits.  

Whatever the sector, giving employees first aid training can have a positive effect on the welfare of staff and wider society. First and foremost it saves lives, which can only be a good thing for a company with health and safety, as well as reputation, at the forefront of its mind. Having a plan for reducing accidents in the workplace is a positive step in the right direction, but any such contingency needs to be backed up by having enough employees on site who know how to deal with the consequences of accidents if they do happen.

Apart from the important benefit of saving lives, there is a robust business case for making sure that staff can administer first aid properly. If an accident happens and not enough provision has been made, then in Britain, for example, the Health and Safety Executive can impose dramatic fines. What’s more, first aid can improve teamwork, offer help to employees in their home life, and build self-esteem. Learning first aid can even be a fun group exercise and a valuable alternative to traditional team-building exercises.

 The benefits to wider society are just as great. Alister Fulton, for instance, learned first aid at work through a St John Ambulance course, thinking that it might be a useful skill to protect his colleagues. But because of his first aid training he also knew exactly what to do when his four-year-old daughter choked on a coin and, as a result, he saved her life. Around 900 people a year die from choking in England and Wales, and knowing simple first aid could help to reduce this number. Yet currently, not enough people know this important skill.
 
St John Ambulance recently began a campaign to encourage businesses to view first aid as a vital element of their CSR programmes; not to see it just as filling in a regulatory legal tick box, but as a way of impacting on people’s lives for the better and creating a vital legacy. We want businesses to take action by providing first aid training to as many employees as possible, not just the bare minimum. The cost is not as much as you’d think and there are compelling reasons why more people should learn this vital skill.

It’s not just St John Ambulance that’s in favour of more first aid training at work. Our recent research revealed that two-thirds of people in the UK would like first aid training to be provided in their workplace – and would view it as part of their employee benefits. But not enough of them are getting it. Companies need to fulfil that demand, for everyone’s benefit.

Sue Killen is chief executive of St John Ambulance, www.sja.org.uk




Sue Killen | UK & NI Ireland | Health and safety

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