First-aid trainer gets up close with social distancing

Michael Weaver 28 April 2020
First-aid safety training room with perspex screens separating manikins.

ACTWell’s first-aid training centre has been upgraded with perspex screens to provide safe training. Photo: Supplied.

Providing resuscitation to someone gasping for air is one thing you may think twice about during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With current social distancing laws in effect, ensuring first-aid responders have the best training to administer the breath of life has also been a challenge.

One of Canberra’s leading first-aid training providers, ACTWell First Aid Training, has also had to hold its breath on whether it could continue providing the training that individuals and organisations need to keep their first-aid accreditation valid.

“The biggest challenge for us has been whether we could continue to operate in any capacity due to our own compliance, which made it hard to keep up to speed with what we were and weren’t allowed to do,” says ACTWell director Adam Wells.

“Some authorities were saying our accreditation training should be stopped, while others said we just needed to make some adaptations.”

Adam says he and his instructors moved to an online platform, but that still didn’t address the practical components of getting up close and personal with instructors. So the first-aid business, which provides training to government departments such as the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and Canberra’s transport workers, closed its doors.

However, training enquiries continued to pour in as essential workers still required their qualifications to continue to work.

“We were advised by regulatory authorities that we were able to still operate as long as we adhered to social distancing rules,” says Adam.

“We have invested heavily in new patient handling manikins, additional PPE [personal protective equipment] and protective screens. We have done everything possible to make our training safe for everyone.”

The protective screens provide a barrier between the instructor and the trainee, who work on lifelike manikins that weigh about 50kg.

ACTWell’s larger classes have been scaled back so only those who need accreditation for their job can still access the training.

“We’re focusing on essential workers who need to do their training to maintain employment, as well as the compliance and standards from a work, health and safety aspect,” says Adam.

“We are still open to anyone, but we’re really just focusing on essential workers. We don’t want to take unnecessary risks and it’s not about turning a profit at the moment.

“Fortunately, we have had nothing but positive feedback on the measures and we are delighted to be continuing to operate in some capacity and continuing to offer our staff employment.”

Close up of Adam Wells, director of ACTWell First Aid and Training.

Adam Wells, Director of ACTWell First Aid Training. Photo: Supplied.

Traditional training methods will be reinstated once things get back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The safety of the Canberra community and our staff is our priority and we are happy to say we have implemented the best possible measures to continue to provide our important training that so many people are reliant upon,” says Adam.

Each of ACTWell’s instructors work in some form of emergency service or related field, such as a paramedic, firefighter or emergency nurse, meaning they have lots of practical experience to back the theory.

Adam and fellow director and instructor Ben have also been employed with ACT Fire & Rescue for the past nine years. Adam has been involved with Surf Lifesaving Australia as a volunteer and professional ocean lifeguard since 1998. He is also a former physical education teacher at Lanyon High School and Hawker College.

Ben is also a former surf lifesaver in Australia and pool lifeguard in the US. He has been employed in the emergency services as a firefighter and regularly delivers training to ACT Fire & Rescue.

After commencing ACTWell in 2012, Adam and staff have trained more than 14,000 students in a range of first aid, fire and emergency, and health and safety courses.

“I have dedicated the past eight years to helping Canberrans understand their role in an emergency and I plan to continue it until ACTWell has reached its goal of saving 100 lives,” says Adam.


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