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Your questions answered

This page answers some basic questions about first-aid provision at work.It is aimed at employers in small and medium-sized workplaces, but may be useful to all employers, managers and others involved in first aid at work.

Q1: What is first aid at work?
People at work can suffer injuries or be taken ill. It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work they do or not, it is important to give them immediate attention and call an ambulance in serious cases. First aid at work covers the arrangements you should make to ensure this happens. It can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.

Q2: What do I need to do?
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and people so your employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work. What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in your workplace and you should assess what your first-aid needs are (see Q3).
The minimum first-aid provision on any work site is:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box (see Q4);
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements (see Q5);
  • information for employees about first-aid arrangements (see Q8).

It is important to remember that accidents and illness can happen at any time. First-aid provision needs to be available at all times people are at work.

Q3: What should I consider when assessing first-aid needs?
Some small workplaces may only need the minimum provision. But, there are factors that might mean you need greater provision. The checklist in Table 1 covers the points you should consider.

Q4: What should I put in the first-aid box?
There is no mandatory list of items to put in a first-aid box. It depends on what you assess your needs to be. As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, a minimum stock of first-aid items might be:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid (eg HSE’s leaflet:  Basic advice on first aid at work - see Q9);
  • 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (you can provide hypoallergenic plasters, if necessary);
  • two sterile eye pads;
  • four individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile;
  • six safety pins;
  • two large, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings;
  • six medium-sized, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings;
  • a pair of disposable gloves

This is a suggested contents list only. It is recommended that you don’t keep tablets and medicines in the first-aid box.

Q5: What is an appointed person?

If you decide you don’t need a first-aider in your workplace, you should appoint someone to take charge of first-aid arrangements. The role of this appointed person includes looking after first-aid equipment and facilities and calling the emergency services when required. They can also provide emergency cover where a first-aider is absent due to unforeseen circumstances (annual leave does not count). Appointed persons do not need first-aid training, though emergency first-aid courses are available.
Even if you decide first-aiders are unnecessary, there is still the possibility of an accident or illness, so you may wish to consider providing qualified first-aiders. Appointed persons are not necessary where there is an adequate number of first-aiders.

Q6: What is a first-aider?
A first-aider is someone who has undertaken training and has a qualification in First Aid at Work. This means that they must hold a valid certificate of competence in either:
first aid at work (FAW), or emergency first aid at work (EFAW), 
Use the findings of your first-aid needs assessment (see Q3) to decide whether first-aiders should be trained in FAW or EFAW. EFAW training enables a first-aider to give emergency first aid to someone who is injured or becomes ill while at work. FAW training includes EFAW and also equips the first-aider to apply first aid to a range of specific injuries and illness. As a guide, Table 2 suggests the first-aid personnel to provide under different circumstances.
To help keep their basic skills up to date, it is strongly recommended that your first-aiders undertake annual refresher training. The training organisations referred to above can run these courses.

Q7: How many appointed persons or first-aiders do I need?
There are no hard and fast rules on exact numbers. It will depend on the circumstances of your workplace. After working through the checklist in Table 1, refer to Table 2 which provides a general guide on how many appointed persons or first-aiders you might need. The numbers given in Table 2 are suggestions only. You should assess your first-aid needs in the light of your particular circumstances. Where there are special circumstances, such as shift work or sites with several
buildings, there may need to be more first-aid personnel than set out in Table 2. You will need increased provision to cover for absences.

Q8: Do I have to do anything else?
You have to inform your employees of the first-aid arrangements. Putting up notices telling staff who and where the first-aiders or appointed persons are and where the first-aid box is will usually be enough. You will need to make special arrangements to give first-aid information to employees with reading or language difficulties.

Q9: Where can I get further information?
Information on first aid at work is available on the first aid web pages of HSE’s website at