First aid compliance for small, medium & large businesses

First aid can prevent minor injuries and illnesses from becoming more serious, and has the potential to save lives. The law requires all organisations to make provision for first aid.

In the workplace, first aid regulations are legislated by the Health and Safety executive (HSE First Aid Regulations 1981).

Their regulations state that every employer has a legal duty to provide first aid for their employees so that they receive immediate attention in the case of being injured or taken unwell at work.

The injury or illness does not necessarily have to be work related, but the employer must ensure that their staff are attended by an appropriate first aider who can either manage the situation or recognise the need to call for additional help such as an ambulance.

Those that are self-employed must also demonstrate that they have made arrangements for first aid. First aid facilities should be clearly identified to all staff, throughout all levels in an organisation.

The Risk Assessment

The nature of the work and type of business will determine the first aid requirements depending on the risks associated it. Employers must ensure that they provide:

  • An appropriate number of first aiders
  • First aid equipment, including additional items where required (extras such as eye wash or burns kits.)
  • Facilities such as a first aid room or area

All businesses should undertake a first aid risk assessment to determine their need for first aid.

Employers should also ensue there is adequate first aid cover at all times, therefore holidays and sick leave should be taken into consideration when completing the risk assessment.

Under this law businesses are not required to provide first aid for customers, visitors or members of the public, however it would be reasonable to take these groups into consideration when planning first aid requirements.

The HSE provide guidance to help assess a business’s needs.

When undertaking the assessment it is important to consider:

  • The size of your organisation including the number of staff, the number of buildings and ease of access between them, shift work and out of hours.
  • The risks associated with the work, considering machinery, chemicals etc. The history of the number and nature of previous incidents may help identify risks.
  • Existing medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes or severe allergies that will require more advanced training for first aider.
  • Lone or mobile workers

First Aid Training

Once the risk assessment is complete, the employer must decide on the level of training their first aiders will require. They should ensure that first aiders maintain their skills and are regularly retrained.

The HSE uses a four layer framework for first aid training.

  1. Where the risks of illness and injury are extremely low the employer may opt not to train a first aider but must appoint someone who will be responsible for the maintenance of fist aid kits, facilities, calling for additional help and for documentation of incidents. (The Appointed Person)
  2. Where minimal training is required the Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) course will enable a first aider to complete a primary survey, to provide basic resuscitation skills and to be able to call for additional help. The EFAW is usually a one day (or 6 hours) course that certificates the first aid for 3 years, with a strong recommendation for a short annual refresher in resuscitation skills.
  3. Higher risk environments can train staff in First Aid at Work (FAW) which extends the training undertaken in EFAW to include the management of specific illnesses and injuries. This is a 3 day initial course certificating for 3 years, with a 2 day requalification course required before the expiry of the certificate. As with EFAW there is a strong recommendation for a short annual refresher in resuscitation skills.
  4. Additional training may be required where specific risks have been identified or where additional equipment has been provided such as defibrillators. Additional training may relate to the environment e.g. drowning and water rescue, or paediatric first aid.

First Aid Equipment

First aid kits should be of appropriate size for the number of employee’s they are designed to cover. There is no specific legislation on what should be kept but the contents should be appropriate for the setting. The HSE advised that kits should meet or exceed the British Standard BS8599.

Additional equipment may be required for specific locations. These may include defibrillators, burns kits, chemical kits, eye was stations etc.

Record keeping and RIDDOR

The first aider should keep records of all incidents that occur. The easiest way is through the use of an Accident Book. This will allow for the ongoing analysis on the number and nature of events that occur. Detailed reporting is advised as untoward incidents can take a long time to reach resolution and memories fade.

Employers, the Appointed Person or First aiders must be aware of what represents reportable incident under RIDDOR. This will most likely be covered in their first aid training.

References & Further Reading


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