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Lack of first aid knowledge ‘as dangerous as cancer’

A campaign launched recently showed that 140,000 people every year die in situations that could have been prevented had there been a trained first aider there. Indeed, that’s the same amount of deaths as caused by cancer.

The hard-hitting TV adverts were first run during prime time TV, showing a man choking on barbecue food and dying in front of his friends and family because nobody knew first aid. The man was a cancer survivor, drawing a direct parallel between cancer and first aid awareness.

Hard-hitting? Yes. Effective. Probably. There may be a limit to the number of hard-hitting adverts that viewers can take without feeling a little numb towards them, but this one certainly does hit the spot by focusing on this direct parallel between the number of people who die each year. It’s a stunning statistic, and shows that with a little training, up to 140,000 deaths could be avoided each year.

The spotlight, if it is on anyone, is on businesses. After all, employers are required by law to provide appropriate and adequate resources to ensure employee safety within the workplace and to ensure that should there be an injury, employees receive immediate attention.

Employers should all have a trained first aider on-site, as well as back-up first aiders so that should there be any incident in the workplace, someone is able to help.

Sue Killen of St. John Ambulance said that “in situations where first aid could help save a life, we don’t have to feel helpless, because learning life-saving skills is so simple. That’s why it’s so concerning that fewer than one in five of us knows even basic first aid. This has got to change if we are to stop up to 140,000 lives from being needlessly lost each year.”

The campaign hopes that people will start to draw parallels between the reaction to cancer campaigns and their own first aid campaign. Nearly half of the 4,000 adults surveyed for the ‘Helpless’ campaign said that they had made changes to their lifestyle in order to avoid cancer. 43% had made changes to their diet, and 36% did more exercise. The campaigners are hoping that people make similar changes for first aid.

What can you do?

Simple – if you employ people, find your local first aid training company, and send as many people as you can reasonably afford to become qualified first aiders. Ensure that health and safety messages are clearly indicated on staff notice boards, and make sure that first aid information is clearly signposted, for example where is the first aid kit?

You can invite local first aid trainers in to give simple courses to staff at any time, which will help get the message out that you are serious about first aid. Equally, use your company intranet and company internal newsletters to get first aid messaging out there.

If you are an employee, ask your HR department today about becoming a qualified first aider. It could not only help in the workplace, but it could come in handy at any time. And if the response is “we already have a trained first aider”, your response should be “you can never have too many”.


About the author: is a frequent HR, marketing and business blogger, having spent several years working in outsourcing, occupational health and marketing.

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