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The switch to a ‘hybrid’ mix of home and office working could put lives at risk because of reduced access to trained first aiders, St John Ambulance has warned.
A poll for the charity of 2,000 workers found that nearly half of employees (49%) are now permanently split between home and office working.
While this can bring with it advantages in terms of flexibility and work-life balance, it was also potentially meaning reduced access to workplace first aid, St John Ambulance said.
Fewer than half (49%) of those polled believed they now had a designated first aider in their workplace.
This was despite 40% also saying they had once witnessed an accident at work that required first aid – of which more than a quarter (27%) were life-threatening.
Only four in 10 said they would know what to do in a health emergency themselves.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive over the summer showed that 142 workers were killed in work accidents in 2020/21.
Even though the vast majority of these were in agriculture, forestry, fishing and construction, where home or hybrid working is likely to be much less common, St John Ambulance has expressed fears that reduced access to workplace first aid, whether in a physical or home office setting, could put lives at risk.
Dr Lynn Thomas, medical director at St John Ambulance, said: “As we get used to hybrid working, employers need to be mindful of their legal obligations to have appropriate numbers of first aiders on hand – all fully-trained, with the confidence to take charge in a medical emergency.
“Statutory responsibilities, like updating risk assessments and checking rotas to ensure enough people are at work on any given d
Nic Paton is consulting editor of OHW+. One of the country's foremost workplace health journalists, Nic has written for OHW+ and Occupational Health & Wellbeing since 2001, and edited the magazine from 2018.