Understanding first aid in the workplace can make the difference between having a minor accident and the situation evolving into a major incident. Larger businesses may need a qualified first aider on site, or more than one, but that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t be aware of what to do in the event of an incident.
Keeping the right equipment well stocked up, as well as keeping people’s skills and knowledge up to date, could do more than just ensure your compliance. The right first aid administered in a crisis could even save somebody’s life.
What is first aid at work?
No matter how meticulous you are with your health and safety policies and procedures, sometimes people do become ill at work or can suffer an injury. Knowing what to do in this situation is crucial if you want to ensure they are well cared for, and providing first aid until the professionals arrive can make the difference between life and death.
You don’t need to be a doctor to administer first aid. In fact, everyone in the workplace should be made aware of the basic things they can do to save a life. As an employer, your responsibility is to ensure that the structures and foundations have been put in place to provide functional first aid support, should anything happen in the workplace.
What must you do?
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 specify that you must supply the right sort of first aid equipment, the right facilities and the people to cope in case someone is hurt or becomes ill in the workplace. As a bare minimum, this means you need to provide:
- A first aid kit, stocked with the right things based on your risk level
- Information to your employees regarding first aid
- Someone to take care of first aid arrangements
What you need to provide specifically will depend on the type of business you operate and the risks that surround your employees, visitors and other people.
Assessing your first aid needs
In order to assess what is required of you in terms of first aid, you will need to conduct a basic appraisal of what your business does and who is working there. Take into consideration:
- What hazards and risks are associated with your work activities
- How big the organisation is and whether it has a history of accidents
- The distribution of the workforce and what they are doing
- Whether you have lone workers and what different working patterns exist
- What will you do if your first aider is absent or on holiday
There may be other risk factors specific to your business, such as the distance from the nearest hospital or difficulty in accessing ambulance services. There is more detailed advice on conducting a first aid needs assessment on the HSE website.
The first thing to look at is if you need a qualified first aider on site, or more than one, or if an appointed person is sufficient. An appointed person is someone responsible for first aid management, so checking that the kit is stocked up and taking responsibility for coordinating first aid in the event of an injury or illness.
In a low risk business with less than 25 employees, you don’t need a qualified first aider on site. You do, however, need at least one appointed person. From 25 – 50 people, you’ll need at least one first aider trained in Emergency First Aid at Work, and an appointed person. Larger companies with over 50 employees need to have at least one first aider for every 100 people on site.
Higher risk organisations with fewer than five people only need at least one appointed person. Between five and 50 employees, at least one first aider trained in Emergency First Aid at Work or First Aid at Work depending on the types of injuries that could occur. For companies with more than 50 employees, at least one first aider qualified in First Aid at Work per 50 people is required.
First aid boxes
Having a first aid box on site is a minimum requirement for your workplace. It must be a marked green box with a white cross on it, and should be easily located by all members of staff. In larger premises, you should have more than one box, so that there is always a kit within reach of all members of staff.
Research in the UK found that, astoundingly, three quarters of employees did not know where their first aid box was kept, so ensure you take the time to inform everyone where it’s located.
In terms of what your kit contains, it depends on the risks you have identified through your appraisal. However, as a suggested guideline in a low risk workplace, the following items are recommended:
- Sterile plasters, individually wrapped – at least 20
- Eye pads, sterile and wrapped – at least 2
- Triangular bandages, sterile and wrapped – at least 4
- Safety pins – 6
- Wound dressings, individually wrapped, medium size – 6
- Disposable gloves, latex free – 1 pair
- Information leaflet on first aid – 1
Note that you should never keep medicines like painkillers or other medication in your first aid kit.
If you have identified yourself as a higher risk business, you may need additional equipment in your first aid box to cope with your perceived risks and specific injuries. To help you put together the ideal first aid kit for your needs, we have developed some industry specific kits which offer a more comprehensive range of first aid items.
- Industrial high-risk kits: These kits contain everything specified in the basic kit, except in larger quantities, and some additional items such as sterile eye wash pads, foil blankets, closure adhesive and resuscitators.
- Sports kits: These are smaller, more lightweight kits, ideal for having with you at sports events or competitions. They contain most of the things in the basic kit, as well as some additional pads, bandages and a resuscitation face shield.
- Vehicle kits: If you travel for work, for instance to events, conferences or team days out, it’s worthwhile having a vehicular first aid kit mounted in your car or minibus. The Road Traffic Act 1986 stipulates that you must have one of these in the vehicle if you are responsible for transporting other people.
- Catering kits: For a comprehensive kit that will deal with most eventualities in commercial kitchens or business canteens, our catering first aid kits are suited for this. Containing a full first aid kit as well as an eyewash kit and a burn kit.
- Multipurpose first aid kits: These have been designed as flexible, comprehensive kits to deal with a range of workplace accidents and emergencies. The multipurpose first aid kits include a general first aid kit, eyewash kit, burn kit and a biohazard disposal kit.
- Wall cabinets and cupboards: In larger organisations, you may need more first aid items than will fit comfortably into a wall mounted box. In this case, we provide a range of first aid cabinets, cupboards and medical trolleys, including lockable drugs cabinets, to safely store everything you need.
- First aid room: If you plan on dedicating a space in your building to a first aid room, our first aid room bundle is a great place to start. Including an examination trolley, cotton blankets, workstation with lockable storage and mobile trolley, this will make it easy to comply with the first aid at work regulations for your business.
All of the components of our first aid bundles and kits are available to be purchased separately, so if, for instance, you only need a basic first aid kit but would like burns treatment equipment too, you can add on the items you need to create a kit suitable for your business.
Your appointed first aider should be responsible for auditing what’s been used and ordering replacements on a regular basis.