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Last updated: 05.09.18

First aid basics for Sole Traders

It is well known that larger organisations must have properly trained designated first aiders. They are an invaluable asset that can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to an incident in the workplace. When considering sole traders, however, the chances are less likely that first aid will be needed and so the requirement for formal training may not be needed either. However, it’s still important for sole traders to have a basic understanding of first aid for those unlikely incidents, whether they involve customers, partners or members of the general public.

Becoming a qualified first aider requires considerable practical learning, which may not be feasible for everyone, but fortunately there is a first aid procedure that anyone can learn, even online, which will help. This is known as the first aid primary survey. It is a method of assessing the first aid situation and getting ready for the arrival of trained medical professionals. Here at Virtual College we offer courses in the primary survey which can be taken online by anyone. Click here to be taken to the course page to find out more, or continue reading for a summary of what the primary survey involves.

The letters DRABC are the easiest way to remember what the primary survey involves. Each letter represents one step, and you work through each one as part of the process. In the event of an accident that isn’t severe, you may move through the first few steps in seconds, but in a serious incident, each one must be carefully checked.


D for Danger is the first step. This means checking to make sure that the scene is safe for you and the patient. If you come across someone in the road for instance, is it safe for you to give them attention? Or if the patient has cut themselves on something, is the hazard still present?

R for Response comes next. This means checking to see if the person is responsive. This can be done by speaking loudly to them, gently shaking their shoulder, or by pinching their earlobe. They may make eye contact, speak to you, or communicate in some way.

A is for Airway. You need to determine whether or not it is open and clear. If the person is responsive you can seek to clear any blockages if they are present. If they are unresponsive, then you should gently lift their head and tilt their chin forward to clear the airway.

B is for Breathing. You need to check to see if the person is breathing properly. If they are responsive, it’s likely they are but the breathing may not be normal. If possible, seek to resolve whatever is causing the issue, which may be an obstructed airway. If they are not responsive, look, listen and feel for breathing. If this isn’t happening, then you must call 999 immediately and begin chest compressions. Click here to find out how these are performed.

C is for Circulation. This is the last step of the primary survey, but one of the first that you may act on in many normal first aid situations. You should check to see if the person has any severe bleeding. If there is, then call 999 and attempt to stop the flow of blood using pressure and clothing. If there is no severe bleeding, then you may have minor injuries to deal with.


These leads us on to the final point - the first aid kit. Even as a sole trader it is wise to have one wherever you work - perhaps in your office or car. Even a relatively small one will be useful in a wide range of situations, and most come with instructions.