Ok, there’s been some talk about this topic for a while, a national magazine even did a long running section on first aid. So why am I writing about this? I work in the Safety industry and on top of this have spent a number of years as a first aid trainer and personally train over a thousand people a year in it. I have deep reservations about what keeps popping up in forums, Facebook and publications as some of this information has been outdated or outright wrong and that worries me gravely.
Staff at Airsoft sites need to have First Aid training, if they don’t insurance companies won’t cover them and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will absolutely roast them when something goes wrong. This is not optional for Airsoft as a business.
If sites have done their risk assessments and research properly, they will know they need staff trained to the full certification (3 day) First Aid at Work standard as a minimum. The Emergency (1 day) course just won’t cut it as it doesn’t cover the necessary topics. The one-day course may be cheaper, but is intended for offices and sedentary activities, not active sports like airsoft with an actual risk of injury. On a related note, airsoft sites should have a think about whether they need a defibrillator or not or certainly where their nearest public access one is.
The chance of serious injury during play, if safety briefs are adequate and adhered to, is low. First Aid training is there to cover for the unlikely event that something goes wrong.
If the staff at the site have appropriate training and adequate cover, then we as players have no need to be trained or equipped. However; based on experiences and eyebrow raising discussions with sites and events companies across the country, I’d advise we all get some first aid training – just in case. This is not to say all are underprepared; some have been exemplary, others not so much.
So, what injuries/situations do we need to be able to handle?
Eye injuries, broken bones, head injury, sprains, strains, dislocations, spinal injury, minor and severe bleeds, minor and severe burns, shock, unresponsiveness, feints, low blood sugar, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, asthma and ideally chest pains as a minimum. CPR and defibrillation are always nice and go with core skills such as Primary and Secondary survey and incident/ casualty management.
In the UK there are ‘good Samaritan’ laws which will give you a modicum of protection while doing first aid on others as a private citizen. The staff at the site are covered by insurance, you administering care to another player, are not. This means if you make things worse and legal action ensues; you might be on your own.
So, to keep yourself in the right, get some formal first aid training, pick a decent and reputable provider, some even do ‘community courses’ that are cheaper than ‘workplace’ options and will give you the knowledge and practical skills you need. Some even provide free associate membership insurance to people who undertake their courses, helping protect you further when you’re acting as a ‘Good Samaritan’. If you choose one of the more recognised and reputable providers you know you’ll be getting up to date and accurate information from professionals, not some amateur who’s having a crack at it after reading a book.
There are some charlatans out there selling snake oil to individuals and businesses alike with potentially dire consequences; don’t be fooled.
I’ve had reports of some of less reputable groups teaching first aiders how to use tourniquets. While knowing how to use this equipment can be lifesaving, it has limited applications and needs proper in-depth training and understanding to be used safely, used inappropriately a tourniquet can endanger life. Unless you have a catastrophic bleeding unit in your qualification and hold the right insurance you should leave these items well alone. (If you’re ex-military and have received this training, check when your qualification expires and if you’re insured to do this as a civilian – though I can’t see a likely need for it on the airsoft field).
The other frightening thing I’ve heard from charlatans is that rescue breaths aren’t given during CPR anymore, and I can tell you that is absolutely not true. The only time rescue breaths wouldn’t be given would be if doing so was of immediate danger to the first aider. Otherwise, if you don’t re-oxygenate your casualties’ blood by giving those breaths, chest compressions are almost pointless. Rescue breaths must be carried out if possible as per the European Resuscitation Council’s guidelines.
So, this is the part where you’re expecting me to give you a first aid lesson right? Wrong. Reading about this skill set will not teach you it in a meaningful way, you need to attend a course where you will be shown and have chance to practice this hands-on and very physical skill set.
While first aid isn’t some mystical black art, it takes time and practice to learn the fundaments and learn them well. To be good at this you need someone competent to guide you and answer your questions, a trainer or teacher not some blog, book or app.
These aren‘t just skills for airsoft, they’re skills for life, get them and keep them sharp. You never know when you or someone close to you might need First Aid, don’t let it become a forgotten skill. The best way to keep sharp is regular training and practice.
Also, if you’ve got the skills then carry a good quality kit where you can reach it easily, it’s no good being left in the carpark. If you want to know what to have in a first aid kit, the best option is to use a BSI-8599 standard kit as a minimum and add to as needed. I may do a future article on this topic.
If you see me out on a field and want to talk about first aid or even do some basic practice, please do come over, I’m more than happy to.