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The Ancient History Of First Aid

Posted: 01/06/2021

Categories: Health & Safety Guides

First aid is a critical part of any workplace’s health and safety policy, and the provision of staff trained in first aid response as well as adequate supplies of medical equipment suitable for the level of risk in a given workplace is a legal requirement.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, a workplace is required by law under the terms of the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to provide appropriate first aid equipment and staff to administer it.

This can, at a minimum be a first aid box and a person in charge of filling it and applying basic first aid for a small office, and will increase in scope depending on the size and associated risk with a workplace.


The Origin Of Mobile Medicine

Whilst first-aiders have existed for around 120 years, the skills and principle of rapid medical response have existed since at the latest Ancient Greece, with evidence of wounds being bandaged found on pottery that has been dated to around 500 BC.

The first-ever first aid role that has been documented existed in the Roman Army. The Milites Medici, or combat medic, was a specialised role that took care of wounded soldiers.

This not only helped soldiers that would otherwise be left to die to recover better, but also help boost the morale of soldiers as they knew that if they were wounded they would be taken care of.


Societies For Saving Lives

Outside of warfare, the early origins of first aid came specifically from a growing worry about drowning in 18th Century Europe.

In 1774, the Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned was formed, and they focused on resuscitating people who appeared to have died from drowning, and through the use of artificial respiration techniques that could help save lives.

They would change their name to the Humane Society by 1776 and later to the Royal Humane Society by 1787, highlighting the expansion of their work from saving drowning people to resuscitation in general.


Setting The Early Standard

From the Mid-19th century until the early 20th century, rapid first aid suddenly became more important than it had been at any other point in history, because of the way the world was changing.

Until the First World War in 1914, wars were still fought as they were in the Medieval age except with muskets and cannons, leading to tens of thousands of people dying in a single day of combat.

This led to the first ambulance volantes, a specific unit in Napoleon’s army led by Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey. They were medical assistants with the sole job of tending to wounded soldiers.

After the Battle of Solferino in 1959, Jean-Henri Dunant toured the battlefield and was horrified by the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers, leading to him drafting the Geneva Conventions and forming the Red Cross, a humanitarian movement that seeks to help people during disasters.

In 1870, the first use of the term “erste hilfe” (first aid in German) was used by Friedrich von Esmarch, a military surgeon for the Prussian military who trained soldiers how to bandage and splint injuries.