How to put an adult in recovery position

How to put an adult in the recovery position: A vital skill in emergency response

The recovery position is a critical first aid technique used in emergencies to help keep an adult's airway clear and open when unconscious but breathing. In this blog, Rose delves into the importance of correctly positioning someone in this way, which can be the difference between life and death. It is an essential skill for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and the general public.

Importance of the recovery position

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics highlight that prompt first aid responses, such as applying for the recovery position, can significantly improve emergency outcomes. For instance, in scenarios where individuals suffer from seizures or are incapacitated due to intoxication or injury, the recovery position can prevent the airway from becoming obstructed by the tongue or vomit, thereby reducing the risk of asphyxiation.

Key definitions

Recovery position - A first aid technique that involves placing an individual on their side and ensuring their airway remains open to allow for clear breathing and to prevent choking on vomit or the tongue.

Relevant legislation and regulations

In the UK, the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 mandate that employers provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. This includes training in basic first aid techniques like the recovery position.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) also underscores the importance of first aid competence in care settings, ensuring that all care staff are capable of responding effectively in medical emergencies according to best practice guidelines set out by the Resuscitation Council (UK).

Step-by-step guide to the recovery position

  • Ensure safety - Before approaching, ensure that both you and the casualty are in a safe environment. Check for any hazards or potential dangers.
  • Check responsiveness - Gently tap the casualty and shout to check if they respond. If there is no response but they are breathing, proceed with the recovery position.
  • Positioning the arm - Kneel beside the casualty and place the arm nearest to you at a right angle to their body with the elbow bent and palm facing upwards.
  • Opposite hand across chest - Bring the other hand across the chest, and rest the back of the hand against the cheek closest to you.
  • Leg positioning - With your other hand, grab the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot flat on the ground.
  • Roll over - Carefully pull on the bent leg to roll the casualty towards you, and onto their side.
  • Adjust the upper leg - Ensure the top leg is bent at a right angle to keep the individual from rolling onto their stomach.
  • Tilt the head back - Adjust the hand under the cheek if necessary to keep the head tilted and facing downwards to allow any vomit or fluid to drain from the mouth.
  • Check for breathing - Continuously monitor their breathing and responsiveness until help arrives.

Best practice recommendations

  • Training - Anyone responsible for care should undertake regular first aid training and refreshers to maintain proficiency in emergency responses, such as the recovery position.
  • Awareness - Awareness campaigns within organisations can help ensure all employees know the basic first aid procedures.
  • Compliance - It is crucial for Adhere to adhere to updated first aid guidelines from recognised bodies such as the Resuscitation Council (UK).


The recovery position is a simple yet life-saving procedure that everyone should know. It is particularly crucial in professional settings governed by health and safety regulations. Ensuring your team is trained and aware of using this technique effectively can make a critical difference in emergencies.

Click here to learn more about our accredited first aid training courses and ensure that you or your team are prepared to act confidently and competently in an emergency. Sign up today to ensure safety and compliance in your workplace.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Rose Mabiza

Rose has dedicated over 15 years to improving health and social care quality through practice, targeted education and training. Her extensive experience includes working with older adults, individuals with mental health conditions, and people with autism and learning disabilities.

How to put an adult in the recovery position: A vital skill in emergency response - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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