We will have to get used to a different way of doing first aid in a world with Coronavirus (COVID-19). Claudia Calder provides advice on carrying out first aid in the ‘new normal’.

As we start returning to work with guidance from the Government about physical distancing and good hygiene, we need to consider how do our first aiders provide treatment in the workplace.

This guidance can be used as part of your Prevent strategy, under the Prepare, Inform, Prevent, Recovery approach to returning to work.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever and/or persistent cough, with some people developing severe pneumonia causing breathing difficulties.

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 is most likely to happen when there is close contact with an infected person, and the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with them.

There are two routes that people could become infected:

  • Directly transferred secretions into the mouths or noses of people who are nearby (within 6 feet) or possibly via inhalation into the lungs (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing)
  • Through direct contact from touching a person, a surface, or an object that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes

There are two effective preventative measures:

  • Practice physical distancing (>6 feet)
  • Good hygiene practices – hand washing (and sanitizing)


We never know when someone will need first aid in the workplace; however, we need to plan for it happening. And now, in a COVID-19 world, we need to include preventing infection as part of those plans.

The most important advice to give employees remains to stay at home, self-isolate, and seek medical advice if they show symptoms of COVID-19.

This will significantly reduce the chance that someone on-site is infectious.

Additional planning considerations

  • Everyone is appropriately first-aid trained
  • First aiders to have their own first aid kit
  • First aid kits are fully stocked, within date, and have extra gloves
  • First aiders to have access to sanitizing equipment and/or site welfare facilities

Providing First Aid

Where possible, try and get the casualty to administrate self-aid with your support.

It’s important for you to remain aware of the risks to yourself and others during this time.

In the event that somebody needs emergency first aid at work, go through the normal triage process and call the emergency services if necessary.

#1 Keeping yourself safe

  • Wash your hands before and after treating a casualty
  • Ensure you do not sneeze or cough over the casualty when you are treating them
  • Wear gloves or cover hands when dealing with open wounds
  • Cover cuts and grazes on your hands with a waterproof dressing
  • Dispose of all waste safely – in a hazardous waste bin, if available, or double bag and put in ‘normal/black bag’,  or use sanitary bins (found in female toilets)

#2 Give early treatment

The vast majority of incidents do not involve you getting close to the casualty, where you could come into contact with respiratory secretions. Sensible precautions will ensure you are able to treat a casualty effectively.

#3 Information

Information about COVID-19 is being continually updated by the government and the NHS, keep yourself informed and updated.

#4 Remember your own needs

Make sure you take time to talk about your fears and concerns with someone you trust and to take out time to look after yourself.

What to do if you are required to provide CPR

Because of the heightened awareness of the possibility that the victim may have COVID-19, the American Heart Association offers this advice:

  • Recognize cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing. Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If you are in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, the default position is to start chest compressions until help arrives.
  • Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID 19 is suspected, tell them when you call 911.
  • If there is a perceived risk of infection, rescuers should place a cloth/towel over the victim’s mouth and nose and attempt compression-only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives. Put hands together in the middle of the chest and push hard and fast –  1/3 of their chest size and a rate of 100 per minute.
  • Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection
  • If the rescuer has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. FFP3 face mask, disposable gloves, eye protection), these should be worn.
  • After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; alcohol-based hand gel is a convenient alternative.

This video provides a great visual aid for the explanation above.

They can also seek non-emergency medical or Coronvirus advice by texting HELLO to 741741 to reach a live, trained human Crisis Counselor 24/7.

Need help managing your return to work strategy? Our consultants are here to provide expert advice and support during this difficult time. Find out more here.

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An employee consults with his staff about their return to work policy