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Last updated: 09.11.18

How long does it take to complete a first aid course?

First aid is a hugely valuable skill that can be applied in situations ranging from minor injuries to severe life-threatening accidents and illnesses. This is why it’s taken very seriously by UK businesses and regulated by the Health & Safety Executive. What does it take to become a first aider? Is it a long and complex course that will cost businesses lots of money? Or is it quick and easy to achieve? In this article, we’re going to answer these questions.

EFAW & FAW Courses

To be a recognised first aider, a person must take one of the fully accredited first aid training courses, which are known as either FAW or EFAW courses. FAW simply stands for first aid at work, and EFAW stands for emergency first aid at work. Both courses must by law contain certain components, follow the guidelines set by authorities such as the St John Ambulance, and have to be taken in-person with a fully accredited training organisation, but these are slightly different.

An EFAW course is designed for businesses that operate in a low risk environment. It’s specifically designed to equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to deal with a rare but severe emergency situation. These courses generally take about one day, usually around 6 or 7 hours of tuition with both theoretical and practical elements. Following such a course, a first aider will be trained to deal with the major emergency situations, such as giving CPR, and dealing with people who are choking or bleeding severely. Basic first aid for small injuries is also covered, making this an ideal course for office environments.

A FAW course includes considerably more information than an EFAW course, and is designed for people who work in high risk environments, where general accidents are more likely. In addition to the emergency elements, someone taking a FAW course will learn about dealing with more specific injuries, such as severe cuts, chest injuries, eye injuries, burns and more. As a result of this additional information, EFAW courses can often last for around three days, which are sometimes taken together or sometimes taken over a period of 2-3 weeks.

Most training organisations will allow a first aider to upgrade from EFAW to FAW by taking the additional elements of the course.

Refresher Courses

While the main first aid courses are comprehensive, and certification lasts for three years afterwards, many people find it useful to take refresher courses in the time between. This helps ensure that knowledge and skills are fresh, which could be very important in a severe first aid situation. Some large organisations may mandate that their first aiders take an annual update every year.

Refresher courses generally last just a few hours, and as with the FAW and EFAW courses, they should be done in-person to ensure practical skills are still effective, particularly when it comes to CPR or using a defibrillator.

Other Courses

While FAW and EFAW courses are required to be a recognised first aider, it does not mean that other courses won’t give you knowledge in this field. Many businesses don’t require a fully trained first aider under the law, or they’d like multiple people trained but would prefer not to have the major expense of sending several people away for days at a time to learn.

At Virtual College, we’re pleased to be able to offer a range of health and safety courses, with our Primary Survey course of particular relevance. This course is designed to help people understand how they should approach a first aid situation, and gives them the knowledge they need to confidently make the situation safer. It includes information about assessing the severity of a first aid situation, as well as placing someone into the recovery position in advance of trained medical personnel arriving on the scene. This course can be completed online in around 1 to 2 hours, and a first aid online certificate can be downloaded.

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