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First aid at work?

People at work can suffer injuries or fall ill. It doesn't matter whether the injury or the illness is caused by the work they do or not. What is important is that they receive immediate attention and that an ambulance is called in serious cases. First aid at work covers the arrangements you must make to ensure this happens. It can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.

So what do I need to do?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to your employees if they are injured or become 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)

It is also important to remember that accidents 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?

Many small firms will only need to make the minimum first-aid provision. However, there are factors which might make greater provision necessary. The following check list covers the points you should consider.

Aspects to consider

1. You are required by law to make an assessment of significant risks in your workplace. What are the risks of injury and ill health identified in this risk assessment?

2. Are there any specific risks, e.g. working with:

  • hazardous substances
  • dangerous tools
  • dangerous machinery
  • dangerous loads or animals

3. Are there parts of your establishment where different levels of risk can be identified (eg in a University with research laboratories)?

4. What is your record of accidents and cases of ill health? What type are they and where did they happen?

5. How many people are employed on site?

6. Are there inexperienced workers on site, or employees with disabilities or special health problems?

7. Are the premises spread out, e.g. are there several buildings on the site or multi-floor buildings?

8. Is there shift work or out-of-hours working?

9. Is your workplace remote from emergency medical services?

10. Do you have employees who travel a lot or work alone?

11. Do any of your employees work at sites occupied by other employers?

12. Do you have any work experience trainees?

13. Do members of the public visit your premises?

Impact on first-aid provision

If the risks are significant you may need to employ first aiders (see Q6 and Q7).

You will need to consider:

  • specific training for first aiders
  • extra first-aid equipment
  • precise siting of first-aid equipment

You will probably need to make different levels of provision in different parts of the establishment.

You may need to:

  • locate your provision in certain areas
  • review the contents of the first-aid box (see Q4)

You may need to employ first aiders (see Q6 and Q7).

You will need to consider:

  • special equipment
  • local siting of equipment

You will need to consider provision in each building or on several floors.

Remember that there needs to be first-aid provision at all times people are at work.

You will need to:

  • inform local medical services of your location
  • consider special arrangements with the emergency services

You will need to:

  • consider issuing personal first-aid kits and training staff in their use
  • consider issuing personal communicators to employees

You will need to make arrangements with the other site occupiers.

Your first-aid provision must cover them.

You have no legal responsibilities for non-employees, but HSE strongly recommends you include them in your first-aid provision.

Q4: What should I put in the first-aid box?

There is no standard list of items to put in a first-aid box. It depends on what you assess the needs are. However, as a guide, and where there is no special risk in the workplace, a minimum stock of first-aid items would be:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid e.g. HSE leaflet Basic Advice on First Aid at Work (see 'Where can I get further information?')
  • 20 individually wrapped sterile adhesive dressings (assorted sizes)
  • two sterile eye pads
  • four individually wrapped triangular bandages (preferably sterile)
  • six safety pins
  • six medium sized (approximately 12 cm x 12 cm) individually wrapped sterile unmedicated wound dressing
  • two large (approximately 18 cm x 18 cm) sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings
  • one pair of disposable gloves

You should not keep tablets or medicines in the first-aid box.

The above is a suggested contents list only; equivalent but different items will be considered acceptable.

Q5: What is an appointed person?

An appointed person is someone you choose to:

  • take charge when someone is injured or falls ill, including calling an ambulance if required
  • look after the first-aid equipment, e.g. restocking the first-aid box

Appointed persons should not attempt to give first aid for which they have not been trained, though short emergency first-aid training courses are available. Remember that an appointed person should be available at all times people are at work on site - this may mean appointing more than one.

Q6: What is a first aider?

A first aider is someone who has undergone a training course in administering first aid at work and holds a current first aid at work certificate. The training has to have been approved by HSE. Lists of local training organisations are available from HSE Offices. You may decide, following your first-aid assessment, that you need one or more first aiders. A first aider can undertake the duties of an appointed person.

Q7: How many first aiders or appointed persons do I need?

It is not possible to give hard and fast rules on when or how many first aiders or appointed persons might be needed. This will depend on the circumstances of each particular organisation or work site. Refer to the following table after working through the assessment check list in Q3. It offers suggestions on how many first aiders or appointed persons might be needed in relation to categories of risk and number of employees. The details in the table are suggestions only - they are not definitive nor are they a legal requirement. It is for you to assess your first-aid needs in the light of your particular circumstances.

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 sufficient. But don't forget that you will need to make special arrangements to give first-aid information to employees with reading or language difficulties.

Suggested numbers of first-aid personnel.

First-aid personnel should be available at all times people are at work, based on assessments of risk and number of workers. Where there are special circumstances, such as remoteness from emergency medical services, shift work, or sites with several separate buildings, there may need to be more first-aid personnel than set out below. Increased provision will be necessary to cover for absences.

Category of Risk Numbers Employed at any location Suggested number of first-aid personnel

Lower risk

e.g. shops and offices, libraries

Fewer than 50 At least one appointed person
50 - 100 At least one first aider
More than 100 One additional first aider for every 100 employed

Medium risk

e.g. light engineering and assembly work, food processing, warehousing

Fewer than 20 At least one appointed person
20 - 100 At least one first aider for every 50 employed (or part thereof)
More than 100 One additional first aider for every 100 employed

Higher risk

e.g. most construction, slaughter houses, chemical manufacture, extensive work with dangerous machinery or sharp instruments

Fewer than 5 At least one appointed person
5 - 50 At least one first aider
More than 50 One additional first aider for every 50 employed

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