Workplace accidents can happen at any time. They range from the minor – a trip over a raised carpet tile, to the major – a fall from height. So, having adequate first aid equipment on hand in the event of an injury or sudden illness in the workplace is vital.
Failing to provide immediate first aid to a casualty could result in them having extended injuries and in extreme cases, death.
You are likely aware that every employer has legal duties under the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981 to ensure enough first aid cover for their workplace. But what exactly does this mean and how is this done? In this blog, we are going to explore this topic and provide you with everything that you need to know in respect to first aid provision.
Understanding First Aid
First aid is the immediate medical assistance given to an injured person. The aim is to preserve life, prevent the casualty’s condition from worsening and to promote recovery.
The level of immediate care depends largely on the nature of the injury. Minor injuries such as small cuts can be treated simply with first aid equipment such as antiseptic wipes and plasters.
More serious injuries such as fractures will require more attention and specific action to prevent the injury from getting worse and to reduce any pain or discomfort felt by the injured person.
Carrying Out A First Aid Risk Assessment
As an employer you have a legal duty under the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981 to provide readily available first aid equipment. But it doesn’t end there, you also have to provide suitable facilities such as a room where your employees can receive first aid and trained personnel to administer treatment.
What you need to provide depends on several factors, so carrying out a risk assessment will help you to establish what is necessary.
To assess the first aid requirements in the health and safety first aid regulations, employers must consider the following factors:
- Nature of the work tasks
- Number of workers
- Nature of the workforce
- Size of the organisation
- Location(s) where work is undertaken
- Work patterns
- Accident history
- Lone workers
- Availability and accessible of emergency services
- Availability of trained personnel – annual leave, times of staff absences
Mapping out the above points will help you to understand the extent of arrangements needed. The nature of the work tasks will identify whether the work is low or high risk.
The Health and Safety First Aid Regulations apply to all workplaces, even those with under five employees, and the self-employed.
How Should Employers Assess the Risk?
An assessment must consider any specific needs your employees may have, such as any disabilities or health conditions. This will help to understand if there are specific items that need to be purchased for your first aid kits, and the processes that need to be followed.
Analysing past accident trends will identify the type of first aid equipment you need, and where they should be located, for multi-site organisations.
Don’t forget about employees who travel for work, occasionally work off-site, and even those who work from home.
Travelling employees may benefit from portable first aid kits. And while many home working employees will have basic first aid equipment in their bathroom cabinet, it’s a good idea to check. You can do this by asking the question via a working from home questionnaire.
For multi-site organisations, arrangements can be replicated at each site. Requirements may vary at different times of the day, week or year, such as during unsociable hours or holiday seasons, when the number of employees may reduce. Aim to ensure that there is always adequate cover.
Accessibility and availability of emergency services must be considered when you are evaluating risk. Knowing how emergency personnel will access the workplace, whether there are potential access issues, and travel distances could make a big difference in the event of an emergency.
What You Must Provide
Provision in Low-Risk Environments
For low risk workplaces like a shop or an office, a standard first aid box and an appointed person who will oversee the first aid arrangements, will suffice. The appointed person is usually a manager or team leader, and they will be responsible for the replenishment of the first aid box and calling the emergency services, if necessary.
In small workplaces, the staff room or a meeting room may be used as a safe place to carry out immediate treatment.
Provision in High-Risk Environments
High risk working environments like construction sites and factories benefit from having qualified first aiders. The training they receive will take into consideration the nature of the work, equipment or substances used, as well as the severity of potential injuries.
For example, where hazardous substances are handled by employees, there is an increased risk of poisoning due to ingestion, skin burns and damage to eyes. Specialist facilities such as a shower and eye washing equipment will be necessary.
Where there is the risk of electric shocks and burns, first aiders must be adequately trained and the first aid equipment should include a burns kit.
The typical accidents associated with working with machinery, such as lacerations and crush injuries, will require specific knowledge and equipment to deal with potential injuries.
The general rule of thumb is that the larger the organisation, the greater need for first aid provision. Smaller organisations that carry out high risk activities may require similar arrangements.
Regardless of size or level of risk, sharing the first aid policy with all employees is always a good idea.
How Often Do Employers Have to Review Arrangements?
According to the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981, employers are required to review their first aid arrangements regularly, particularly when there are changes in work premises, patterns and when new work activities are implemented.
Employers and the self-employed have a duty under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to report certain incidents to the Health & Safety Executive. Specific incidents include death, serious burns, amputations, most type of fractures and any loss of consciousness caused by a head injury or asphyxia.
Reviewing after a workplace incident will help to work out if your current provision is enough or if more is needed.
A first aid training course will cover the specific requirements of RIDDOR. Details of what to do in the event of a RIDDOR reportable incident should be added to your accident and incident reporting policy.
How much first aid equipment is needed?
The amount and extent of first aid equipment and arrangements will depend on the previously mentioned factors: nature of work, number of employees, location etc. There’s no mandatory list of items that need to be in a first aid box.
Typically, boxes would include:
- General first aid guidance leaflet
- 20 individually wrapped assorted plasters
- Two sterile eye pads
- Four triangular bandages
- Six safety pins
- Two large, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings
- Six medium, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings
- At least three pairs of disposable gloves
Organisations with less than 25 employees do not need a trained first aider, a nominated first aider will do. In low-risk environments with 25 to 50 employees, at least one trained first aider is required. Having over 50 employees requires at least one trained first aider for every 100 employees.
Gain More Understanding of First Aid Requirements
First aid skills equip your employees with the know-how on what to do in the event of an emergency, both in a work and personal setting. Skills learnt can save the lives of colleagues as well as loved ones and members of the public.
Human Focus have first aid courses covering the core elements on how to assist someone in need of first aid assistance, to the essentials of conducting a first aid risk assessment. All courses aim to provide employees with a good understanding of the role of a first aider/nominated person.