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In every workplace, there needs to be a correct provision of first aid equipment, training and provision.  The main guidelines are laid down in the First Aid at Work Regulations 1981 approved code of practice. There are different updates made to this regulation which can be found on your student login under the downloads section.

Employers have a legal duty to make arrangements to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work they do. What is important is that they receive immediate attention and that an ambulance is called in serious cases. First aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones. First aid at work covers the arrangements that need to be made to manage injuries or illness suffered at work. The Regulations do not prevent staff, who are specially trained, from taking action beyond the initial management stage.

An employer should make an assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances of each workplace. The aim of first aid is to reduce the effects of injury or illness suffered at work, whether caused by the work itself or not. The first-aid provision must be ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’. This means that sufficient first-aid equipment, facilities and personnel should be available:

  • To give immediate assistance to casualties with both common injuries or illness and those likely to arise from specific hazards at work;
  • To summon an ambulance or other professional help.

Where an employer provides first-aiders in the workplace, they should have a valid certificate of competence in either first aid at work (FAW) or emergency first aid at work (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.  If an employer decides a first-aider is not required in the workplace, a person should be appointed to take charge of the first-aid arrangements. The role of this appointed person includes looking after the 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.

How much first-aid provision an employer has to make depends on the circumstances of each workplace. There is no fixed level but each employer needs to assess what equipment, facilities and personnel are appropriate. Where employers have an occupational health service or access to other occupational health advice, they might wish to delegate to them the responsibility for carrying out the assessment and advising on the first-aid provision.

There is no requirement for the assessment of first-aid needs to be formal or written down although it may be useful for employers to record the results. Employers might need to justify their level of the first-aid provision.  In assessing their needs, employers should consider:

  • The nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks
  • The size of the organisation
  • The nature of the workforce
  • The organisation’s history of accidents
  • The needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
  • Work patterns
  • The distribution of the workforce
  • The remoteness of the site from emergency medical services
  • Employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites
  • Annual leave and other absences of first-aiders and appointed persons
  • First-aid provision for non-employees.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make an assessment of the risks to health and safety of their employees at work, to identify what measures they need to take to prevent or control these risks.  Information gathered from the risk assessment can help the employer carry out their assessment of first-aid needs, if preventive or control measures fail. Identifying the likely nature of an accident or injury will help the employer work out the type, quantity and location of first-aid equipment, facilities and personnel to provide.

Generally, the larger the workforce, the greater the first-aid provision that is required. However, employee numbers should not be the sole basis for determining first-aid needs. A greater level of provision may be required when fewer people are at work but are undertaking tasks such as maintenance work. Employers should provide sufficient cover for the various circumstances that can occur.  Even in workplaces with a small number of employees, there is still the possibility of an accident or sudden illness. Therefore, employers may wish to consider providing a qualified first-aider.

Employers are responsible for meeting the first-aid needs of their employees working away from the main site, for example, those who travel regularly or who work elsewhere. The assessment should determine whether those who travel long distances or are continuously mobile should carry a personal first-aid kit. Organisations with employees who work in remote areas should consider making special arrangements such as issuing personal communicators and providing additional training. Where employees work alone, other means of summoning help, such as a mobile phone, may be useful to call for assistance in an emergency.

An employer should consider how the size of the premises could affect quick access to first-aid facilities. For example, whether an additional first-aid provision is needed on a site with more than one building, or whether the distance between buildings is such that additional provision would be unnecessary. Employers with a multi-floor building should consider how many first-aiders or appointed persons will be required to give adequate provision to employees on each floor. Consideration should also be given to employees who work in self-contained areas, and how their needs are assessed and met.

Where a site is remote from emergency medical services, employers may need to make special arrangements to ensure appropriate transport is available. Employers should inform the emergency services, in writing, of their location and any particular circumstances, including specific hazards.

On a shared or multi-occupied site, employers can arrange for one employer to take responsibility for providing the first-aid cover for all the workers. In these cases, a full exchange of information about the hazards and risks involved should help ensure that the shared provision is adequate. All employers should agree the arrangements and employees should be kept informed. A written agreement between employers is strongly recommended to avoid any misunderstandings.

It is essential that adequate provision is made at all times people are at work. Employers, therefore, need to ensure there is cover for annual leave and other planned absences of first-aiders or appointed persons. Employers should also consider what cover is needed for unplanned and exceptional absences such as sick leave or special leave due to bereavement.

The Regulations do not require employers to provide first aid for anyone other than their own employees. However, many organisations such as schools, places of entertainment, fairgrounds and shops provide a service for others and it is strongly recommended that employers include non-employees in their assessment of first-aid needs and make provision for them.

Employers should periodically review their first-aid needs, particularly after any operating changes, to ensure provision remains appropriate. To help with this process, it is recommended that a record is kept of the incidents dealt with by first-aiders and appointed persons.

When the assessment of first-aid requirements has been completed, the employer should provide the materials, equipment and facilities needed to ensure that the level of cover identified as necessary will be available to employees at all relevant times. This will include ensuring that first-aid equipment, suitably marked and easily accessible, is available in all places where working conditions require it.
First-aid containers - The minimum level of first-aid equipment is a suitably stocked and properly identified first-aid container. Every employer should provide for each work site at least one first-aid container supplied with a sufficient quantity of first-aid materials suitable for the particular circumstances.