The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that from 31 December 2016 all first aid training providers must include automated external defibrillator (AED) training on first aid at work courses. The additional AED training will cover: the safe use of the AED, correct placement of pads and follow the AED voice prompts.

The HSE has revised its first aid at work syllabuses to include AED training, in response to changes to resuscitation guidelines which place more emphasis on the role of an AED in treating a casualty who is unresponsive and not breathing.

BLS are proud to say that our courses have always included an awareness of AEDs. For those companies requesting specific AED competence we have historically issued a separate certificate, which we shall stop from 2017 following this change. However, some companies will require a more in-depth course on how to use AEDs and we will still be offering this 3hr course.

As from 2017 all the following courses will include the HSE recommended syllabus with regards to AED.
• First aid at work
• First aid at work requalification
• Emergency first aid at work
NB: course duration remains unchanged.


1. What do these changes mean for employers?
According to the HSE:
• new first aiders must be trained in how to use an AED
• existing first aiders don’t have to re-train – they will update their skills when they requalify
• employers don’t have to buy an AED for their workplace – the requirement is still dependent on their needs assessment.

2. What is an AED?
An AED is a portable machine that automatically sends an electric shock to the heart muscle to return it to its normal rhythm. Once opened, it provides full instructions on what you should do.

3. When should an AED be used?
AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (when a person’s heart stops working) and they are unresponsive and not breathing.
30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside hospital each year* and quick use of an AED (within 3–5 minutes of collapse) can lead to survival rates of 50 to 75 per cent**.
Combined with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using an AED gives an unresponsive person who is not breathing the best possible chance of survival.

4. Where are AEDs located?
In recent years AEDs have been installed in many busy public places. You may have noticed one at your local train station, shopping centre or school.
Many workplaces also have an AED to ensure they are prepared for a first aid emergency.

5. How frequent should I provide fresher training?
At BLS we have always followed the UK Resuscitation Council guidance of a yearly refresher (as instructed by the HSE). However, we have been made aware of proposals to the HSE from the First Aid Industry Board to change the guidance to three years to come in line with all first aid courses for consistency. Here at BLS we shall adopt the same guidance laid down by the HSE in relation to training recommendation for First Aid at Work courses in our AED courses from 2017. Certificates will read “This qualification is valid for three years from the achievement date, with recommendation of an annual update”.