First aid: more than just a tick box

While the discipline of first aid hasn’t changed much over the years, in terms of techniques or procedures there have been recent advances in legislation, training and equipment. We chat to the team at St John South Africa to find out more

“First aid has not changed enormously in recent times,” comments Dianne Silva, centre manager, St John Johannesburg. “However, strides have been made in the areas of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) research and there have been changes within the last five years on how CPR is undertaken. The focus used to be more on breaths, however, the world has moved to a more compressions-focused resuscitation.

“The focus on the early introduction of automated external defibrillators (AED) during lay-person CPR is a game changer in successful CPR,” she adds.


In line with the focus on CPR having changed from breaths to compressions, Silva explains that the AutoPulse automated CPR machine has brought a notable advancement to the field.

“This machine allows first responders or medics to continue compressions in instances where they become difficult (such as in a helicopter, during building evacuations, or in enclosed spaces) or where medical help is far away.

The use of this machine is said to increase the return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) by 3,6 percent and increase overall patient survival and discharge rates by up to 10,2 percent,” Silva enthuses.

This battery-operated device is strapped to the patient’s chest and provides unaided compressions by rapidly inflating and deflating a band for around ten minutes. It takes only 14 seconds for a first responder to strap this device onto the patient.

“The device decreases compression interruptions by 85 percent, which is in line with the compression changes in CPR. It is being tested in many countries and is being utilised in some places as standard,” Silva notes.


Bheko Hlengwa, training marketing officer, St John South Africa, says that there have been recent legislative changes regarding first aid, in that all first-aid training providers now require valid accreditation issued by the Quality Assurance Body, which has been delegated the quality assurance responsibilities for first-aid unit standards by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

“Companies will need to be selective when choosing a first-aid provider. They will need to be clear on whether the provider is accredited and reputable. If these training institutions are not QCTO accredited, it could land the company in hot water, as their health and safety officers are not compliant in the eyes of the law,” Hlengwa warns.


Silva notes that St John South Africa sees these increased regulations in first-aid training as a positive. “It will ensure that the quality of training standards is maintained. However, for training institutions this will be a costly, administrative move, which may affect the smaller suppliers in the market,” she notes.

Chris Martin, business development manager, St John South Africa, adds that companies must remain cognisant of their obligations when it comes to first-aid training.

“Currently, the Department of Labour stipulates that refresher courses need to be undertaken every three years for a first-aid certification to remain valid, but the practical nature of first-aid training ideally requires more regular reinforcement,” he says.

“There is a tendency to view first-aid training as a box-ticking exercise, or merely a means to stay compliant with legislation. However, from St John South Africa’s perspective, first aid is something to be prioritised and valued.

“These are real life-skills that hold real value – both at an individual and organisational level – that can literally make the difference between life and death. Regular training will more adequately prepare a first responder to react appropriately in times of trauma or crisis,” he concludes.

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