To prioritise first aid, schools need adequately qualified attendants on site, facilitating sport and other activities, and on excursions.
Emergencies cannot be predicted, which is why schools must always be proactive and prepared.
Five aims of first aid:
- Preserve life
- Prevent injury from getting worse
- Aid recovery
- Relieve pain
- Protect the unconscious
Some of these principles might seem like common sense; however, first aid undertaken by an untrained person can put someone at further risk. Knowing when to act and what to do is critical.
“One of the big misconceptions surrounds the criteria in which trainers need to assess candidates,” explains Ben Cottee, the Training Services Manager at Royal Life Saving Society NSW: “Groups often believe that a trainer has more ability to adjust assessments than they actually do.”
He explains: “Units of competency, such as those issued with CPR and First Aid courses, are part of the Australian Qualifications Framework and stipulate what a trainer needs to assess learners on and how, in order to maintain consistency of assessment across the country.
“Requirements for assessment, such as candidates performing CPR on the floor, are stipulated by these units, and while they can create difficulty for some learners, they cannot be adjusted at the discretion of individual trainers.
For this reason, he says: “Schools should take a risk-based approach when allocating responsibilities for excursions and events, ensuring that enough qualified staff are involved, based on their WHS requirements. For staff, it is always advised to check in with WHS requirements as to which activities need to have their risks mitigated by staff undertaking specific qualifications.
“Many schools may be unaware of what their requirements are for certain activities. Generally, all staff will need to maintain a CPR qualification, HLTAID009 – Provide Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. At minimum, a portion of staff or staff undertaking/supervising certain activities may need to be First Aid qualified, i.e., HLTAID011 – Provide First Aid.”
Meanwhile: “For students, accredited training, such as a First Aid qualification is a useful way to cover curriculum requirements while also being issued with qualifications that will support them as they leave school and enter the workforce.”
CPR and AEDs
In addition, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is an effective lifesaving technique used in many emergencies such as near-drownings. Furthermore, CPR requires a set of skills that can decline over time, which is why CPR refreshers are recommended every 12 months. CPR can prolong life, but an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is often the only way to restore the heart’s rhythm. AEDs should be installed in an accessible area clearly visible, well signposted, and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Recommendations for managing First Aid kits and supplies
Ben advises that “schools should be encouraged to consider and discuss their specific circumstances when it comes to what type of equipment should be available, in what quantities, and where they should be accessible”.
“All too often, workplaces may have all necessary equipment, but it is stored too far away from where the situations most commonly occur, and this affects the efficiency of a First Aid response in an emergency. It is also encouraged to take stock of the equipment you do have, and when consumables may expire, and need to be replaced. This ensures that usable equipment is always maintained and can be budgeted for.”
“One of the things to avoid, is assuming that the same type of First Aid kit will service every activity in the calendar. Schools should consider the activity, the setting, and ensure staff are adequately prepared. This may include carrying an Ether-containing spray for outdoor activities in tick prone areas, as well as snake bite kits.”
Furthermore, he says: “Staff should be confident in their ability to deal with pre-existing conditions. Having accessible Student Action Plans for Anaphylaxis on an excursion is one example of ensuring adequate preparation in the event of an emergency.”
COVID impacts on First Aid Preparedness
“Throughout COVID,” Ben reveals, “many schools were having to postpone training sessions, or seek out remote delivery options for key staff. Lockdowns ending in late 2021 saw a heavy increase in demand for First Aid and CPR training in the early stages of 2022 and since September, RTOs have had to return to pre-COVID assessment measures, which has seen a return of rescue breaths, and performing techniques on a partner.
“While this has been cause for concern for some schools, RTOs are doing their utmost to protect trainers and candidates in these courses, through cleaning and hygiene measures.”