The guidance in relation to management of individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 which was issued to First Aiders at the outset of the pandemic has now been rescinded. All members of the community are instructed not to attend work if they have symptoms and to self-manage if they develop COVID-19 symptoms at work i.e. to let their line manager/supervisor know, go home via their usual means wearing a face covering and to contact their line manager to ensure any contact tracing actions are complete. First aiders are not expected to intervene in these situations.

Social distanced first aid

It is possible to undertake many First Aid interventions while maintaining social distancing, (greater than 2 meters for less than 15 minutes), through clear communication to undertake assessment and give instructions. The most important consideration is your assessment of the situation and environment. However, if your assessment indicates you need to have close contact, you will need to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to do so.

HSE guidance for first aiders

Try to assist at a safe distance from the casualty as much as you can and minimise the time you share a breathing zone. If they are capable, tell them to do things for you, but treating the casualty properly should be your first concern. Remember the 3P model – preserve life, prevent worsening, promote recovery.

Guidance for first aiders

Preserve life: CPR

  • Call 999 immediately – tell the call handler if the patient has any COVID-19 symptoms
  • Ask for help. If a portable defibrillator is available, ask for it
  • Before starting CPR, to minimise transmission risk, use a cloth or towel to cover the patient’s mouth and nose, while still permitting breathing to restart following successful resuscitation
  • If available, use:
    • a fluid-repellent surgical mask
    • disposable gloves
    • eye protection
    • apron or other suitable covering
  • Only deliver CPR by chest compressions and use a defibrillator (if available) – don’t do rescue breaths

Prevent worsening, promote recovery: all other injuries or illnesses

  • If you suspect a serious illness or injury, call 999 immediately – tell the call handler if the patient has any COVID-19 symptoms
  • If giving first aid to someone, you should use the recommended equipment listed above if it is available
  • You should minimise the time you share a breathing zone with the casualty and direct them to do things for you where possible

After delivering any first aid

  • Ensure you safely discard disposable items and clean reusable ones thoroughly
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser as soon as possible
  • Accidents and illness should be reported through SALUS, the online reporting portal located on the Safety webpages as well as the usual details of the accident (if appropriate) the name of the person giving first aid and summary details of the treatment given should be recorded. Failure to obtain first aid support when required should be reported as a dangerous occurrence.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The following guidance on the use of PPE has been extracted from Government guidance to First Responders such as Police and Fire personnel. Where it is not possible to maintain a 2 metre or more distance away from an individual, disposable gloves and a disposable plastic apron are recommended.

The use of a fluid repellent surgical face mask is recommended and additional use of disposable eye protection (such as face visor or goggles) should be risk assessed when there is an anticipated risk of contamination with splashes, droplets of blood or body fluids. When using a fluid repellent surgical face mask, you should mould the metal strap of the mask over the bridge of your nose and make sure the mask fits snugly under the chin, around or across any facial hair if present.

Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol sanitiser before putting on and after taking off PPE. In all circumstances where some form of PPE is used, the safe removal of the PPE is a critical consideration to avoid self-contamination. Guidance on putting on and taking off PPE is available.