Why don’t businesses value first aid training?

After being involved in the first aid industry for a decade, I am always amazed at how businesses value this essential training.

What is more valuable, staff happiness or staff health?

high value first aid training

A international hotel provider regularly holds awards ceremonies for staff. This event (after some investigations) cost £125,000 to host. This is a one night event. Clearly rewarding staff for a job well done is important to keeping high quality employees and showing how appreciated they are.

So why bring this up? The entry level  Automated External Defibrillator (AED) costs £700 made by Heartsine and has an 8 year warranty. The hotel chain has 100 hotels in the UK. So over the 8 year life of a standard AED, this company is spending £1 million on staff award nights. This is compared to the fact these sites probably don’t have AED’s (total cost of £70,000 to equip each site with one device).

Also these types of chain hotels use economy of scale, and a very competitive buying process to get first aid courses for around £250 per course of 12 delegates for the one day Emergency First Aid at Work Qualification. This is usually priced between £400 to £500 per course. Costing the company around £25,000 a year for mandatory staff training in first aid. Most of the hotel groups only opt for the one day course over the 3 day. You could easily argue hotel staff deal with more difficult situations due to the nature of the industry, with alcohol consumed on the premises, large buildings and customers being from 0 to 100+ with a range of complex needs and disabilities. Some venues even have swimming pools, a high risk facility, and there has been a large number of deaths in these pools over the years.

Large national businesses undervaluing life savings skills

survival rates in the UK are just under 9% for sudden cardiac arrest, where as Norway is closer to 25%

So why is it that a company is happy to spend £1 million over 8 years on staff motivational evenings, but under £300,000 on legally required training, and a device for each venue that could make a huge difference for their employees and customers in a sudden cardiac arrest?

Remember survival rates in the UK are just under 9% for sudden cardiac arrest, where as Norway is closer to 25%. We are regularly seeing survival rates where an AED is used at the 50% mark. So there is a clear argument for well trained staff and an AED for businesses that deal with large numbers of high risk customers with shift workers (who have a higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest).

First aid industries race to the bottom

low cost first aid training

At Omnia Training Solutions we have set out to be a well-priced (but not cheap) training provider, that offers high quality training without the costly extras (first aid kit, training venue, teas and coffees, etc).

There are training providers who are happy to undercut other providers. How do they do this, by paying freelance 0 hour workers less (£125 per day, rather than £175 to £200 a day around London as the standard average). This price includes maintaining qualifications, equipment, travel costs. Anyone who works around central London will realise this doesn’t leave much as the actual day rate counted as profit, which is the freelance trainers salary.

The argument, as we have mentioned in our previous article, has raged for decades. Do you want to be a Lidl, Tesco, Waitrose or Harrod’s? Unfortunately to gain market share, or simply because the companies are run at zero profit, there are companies who are happy to offer the low cost option.

What does this mean for freelance trainers? Courses cancelled with little notice leaving them out of pocket, and these companies usually need chasing for payment, or even charge the freelance trainer for loss of earnings if the trainer is ill or has a car issue and can’t get to the venue.

What does this mean for the company getting this training? We have heard many stories of trainers not turning up, doing courses in half the time, with poor equipment, and serious concerns over their knowledge. This is not always happening, at times you get the same trainer as you would at a higher price, but this is not the norm. Most trainers working for the £125 a day rate, are either doing this as they are new, just filling the odd gap, or have a favourable pension and just do a couple of days a month for pocket money.

A win win for the companies getting these great prices?

The argument is why pay more? If a company can get regulated qualifications for hundreds of pounds less per course, due to their buying power, why should they be concerned!

The answer is simple. You have to understand how these businesses can offer courses for so much less, and that either effects zero hour workers, which is an ethical issue, or it effects quality of training. That then has a knock on impact on survival rates, as even though staff have a piece of paperwork which meets legal and insurance requirements, they lack the knowledge to act effectively in an emergency.  That means people dying that don’t need to.

Ill give you an example. A coffee chain where staff put burns gel straight on a 17 year old workers burns, rather than cooling for 10 minutes under cold water. The impact, a young girl who now has a scar for the rest of her life, and also the opportunity to seek civil action against that company.

Another example; staff not wanting to move a casualty who isn’t actually breathing, due to a concern over their spinal injury. Resulting in the person dying!

Another example, staff waiting an hour for an ambulance, even though the injured person has a serious injury, but this was not relayed to the 999 call handler.

We could go on and on. These are all real life examples, that are all because of poor training, and staff having a lack of confidence to act effectively.

What type of business do you want to be?

ethical business

So does a glitzy event become more valuable and easier to justify the expenditure for over survival rates of employees and customers in your venues?

Do you have the time to lose staff to a 3 day course over a one day course? Do staff really need to know about heart attacks, strokes, diabetes when working in a Hotel, or is simply CPR, burns and bleeds enough for these employees?

It seems the answer for lots of companies at the moment is yes! Should we be concerned as customers? We think the answer is yes.

Health and safety is crucial to ensure accidents are minimised, but illness and injury do happen, and we hope that people know how to recognise signs and symptoms and what treatments to give to save our loved ones when the worst happens.

So my question to facility, health and safety,  operation and human resource directors is simple; Should we be happy, as a company spending hundreds of thousands pounds more on a staff motivation night, but not on their survival if and when the worst happens?

What do you get for paying more for training?

We recognise some companies charge more and can deliver less, however our clients feedback shows, we are not one of those companies.

Do you as a business want to pay 12 employees travel costs, and cover costs to then find the trainer doesn’t show up! Or as we have already discussed, have trainers who do not have the relevant equipment and knowledge to ensure learners leave feeling confident about their new skills and effective when they are needed.

As a trainer running between 150 and 175 courses a year, over an 8 year period I have had to cancel 4 days of work. These courses were all covered, and no courses were cancelled. This is part of the service we offer. We realise problems do happen (Usually increased illness due to working with a large number of people), however we have a great group of trainers, who can step in at short notice to cover courses. We build up this relationship in a number of ways, through pay, reliability and quality standards. We also ensure all our trainers have excellent knowledge and experience, and only the best equipment. This means they can adapt to the day to day challenges that trainers have to deal with, but also we know how reliable they are. We would not simply fill a job with just anyone, and have turned down training, due to not being able to find a high quality trainer. Other companies will be happy to have any trainer fill a job, just to ensure a course run. We simply think this will have a knock on impact on quality, and as mentioned, life saving skills, and therefore survival rates.

So how should a business value safety and first aid training?

We should not be a society that relates safety and peoples lives to a tick box exercise to meet minimum requirements in legal and insurance requirements. Clearly managing expenditure is crucial to ensure a successful business, and clearly staff happiness is a valuable tool in retention and quality of customer care. However should we not also include how expensive it is to replace these staff due to loss days from illness and injury? Our aim as a first aider (one of three) is to promote recovery. Instead of 2 weeks off work due to a nasty burn, we could see a member of staff back at work much quicker with effective treatment.

There is no doubt survival rates in the UK would increase with more effective first aiders and more AED’s. So is it not time to value peoples lives, not just becaue legally we have to, but understanding we all want our loved ones fit and healthy and with us for as long as possible.


quality first aid training

So as a business, next time you negotiate your first aid training tender, or look to buy AED’s for your sites, look at quality, not just price, and together we could get much closer to where Norway is. In turn this will undoubtable save money in the long run with fit, healthy and happy staff.