The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has set the UK standards for first aid since they created their updated first-aid guide for employers in 2013. Since then, voluntary aid societies and Awarding Organisations (AOs) like the First Aid Industry Body (FAIB), have helped UK employers meet the requirements of the HSE. 

Prior to 2013, the HSE used to accredit individual course or training providers. After 2013, the standards were set by the Voluntary Aid Societies and the AOs. Now, there are also several distinctions made depending on the workplace risk determined during the first aid assessment. Low-risk workplaces often host one day courses called ‘Emergency First Aid at Work’ (equivalent to a ‘first aid Level 2 qualification’), while higher-risk locations tend to host longer courses covering more complex first aid requirements called ‘First Aid at Work’ (often known as a ‘Level 3 first aid course’). 

This article is going to look at the difference between Level 2 and 3 first aid at work training, and establish why some organisations like Skills Training Group do not label their courses with Level 2 or 3.

difference between level 2 and level 3 first aid course

Why Are Some First Aid Courses Given A Level?

At Skills Training Group we offer first aid courses which are awarded by the FAIB. These courses meet the full requirements of the HSE. Our courses range from Emergency First Aid at Work (1 day) and First Aid at Work (3 days), through to first aid refreshers and paediatric first aid. 

Yet you won’t see our courses given Level 2 or 3 status. That’s because our AO, the First Aid Industry Body, meets the required standards of Ofqual and the Voluntary Aid Societies without needing to be backed by an Ofqual Awarding Organisation. 

Many smaller training providers register with an Ofqual-backed awarding body like Qualsafe, which follows the government criteria of awarding levels in line with the Registered Qualifications Framework (RQF). This framework awards a certain level to the training, according to the complexity of the course. Smaller training providers benefit from the reputational boost that comes with Ofqual rankings, and will also likely be sent course materials when they register. This can be vital for emerging businesses, but attending Level 2 First Aid at Work and Level 3 first aid training are not legal requirements. The legal standards require the first aid training to be compliant with the HSE.

In fact, many industry leaders like the Voluntary Aid Societies and Skills Training Group meet the requirements of the Level 3 ranking on their own. Our courses are fully compliant with HSE guidelines, independent of the RQF ranking system. 

What Is The Difference Between First Aid Level 2 and Level 3 First Aid Training?

The level attributed to any courses that follow the RQF ranking system depends on its complexity. The higher the ranking, the more complex the course. This also means that higher levelled courses take longer to complete.

First Aid Level 2

First aid Level 2 refers to the Emergency First Aid at Work qualification. It is intended for low-risk workplaces, and takes place in one working day. This qualification provides the trainees with basic life-saving skills, like handling individuals in shock, with difficulty breathing, or physical issues like a stroke, fracture, or choking. There are no entry requirements with Level 2 courses, and its contents are much simpler than the Level 3 course.

Level 3 First Aid

A Level 3 first aid course is for high-risk workplaces like chemical plants or food processing. It refers to the First Aid at Work course, which takes three working days to complete. The course goes into far greater detail than topics covered in the Level 2 course, and includes looking after colleagues that have had a heart attack, eye injury, or chest injury. There are no entry requirements, but trainees are equipped to handle a wide range of workplace injuries.

Low risk workplaces can send their employees on a Level 3 first aid course, and high-risk workplaces may offer both courses (although the designated first aider must have the Level 3 or equivalent qualification). 

Level 2 first aid course exercise

How Do I Know What Level Of Risk My Business Has?

The first aid needs assessment outlined by the HSE will help you discover the level of workplace risk associated with your business. The assessment will establish:

  • Whether your workplace is high or low risk
  • How many first aiders you need
  • The level of training required

However, the HSE guidelines also outline that it is not a legal requirement to have first aid courses attributed with a Level 2 or 3 qualification. Providers do not even need to be registered with Ofqual, or an Awarding Organisation. Voluntary Aid Societies and other standard-setters in first aid have already met the criteria outlined in the Health and Safety (first aid) regulations of 1981, and do not require external accreditation. As long as the training provider meets the standards outlined in 1981, they do not need to be backed by Ofqual or an AO.

Which Course Is Right For My Business?

After the outcome of your workplace assessment, there are several courses and steps you can take to ensure you have a qualified first aider in the workplace.

Emergency First Aid At Work

Emergency First Aid At Work is an ideal course if you have been identified as a low-risk environment. This one-day course will teach your class the basics of first aid in a work environment, and will become a qualified first aider at the end of the course.

First Aid At Work

First Aid at Work is more appropriate for high-risk workplaces, although you may wish to host this course at work if you want a Level 3 or equivalent first aider in the workplace. The three-day course will cover the in-depth requirements of first aid in a high-risk workplace.

Refresher Sessions

You might have several first aiders coming up for their training renewal and need to host the appropriate course to ensure their training is kept up-to-date. The First Aid at Work refresher is a two-day course that allows individuals to refresh their training before the three-year expiry date. For those renewing an emergency first aid qualification, they would complete another emergency first aid at work course.

Skills Training Group Can Help Your Business With First Aid

At Skills Training Group, we can help your business with a first aid certification. Whether you’re a sole trader or small business, our training can help you maintain HSE standards and keep your colleagues safe. Contact us today to find out how we can help.