First Aid at Work

A medical first aid facility is an important parameter at a workplace to demonstrate how it can cope with any medical emergency and injury at work.

This has often been ignored in small scale businesses where businesses usually don’t want to invest in training their employees as first aiders, usually due to financial or employee turnover issues.

However, aside from the basic needs, this is also a legal requirement under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, where employees are responsible to provide appropriate and adequate equipment, personnel, and facilities so employees or any visitor can get immediate attention to medical emergencies or injuries.

General misconceptions

A lot of employers with less than five employees and self-employed personals have the misconception that they don’t need to provide any first aid facility to their employees. However, this is not the case.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 applies to every employer and self-employed person.

Sometimes there is also a misconception that the requirement is simply to have a first aid box within the workplace, but not a trained first aider; this is not a case.

Another misunderstanding of the Regulations is that by appointing a ‘first aider’, it fulfils the requirements. Unfortunately, this is inadequate, and can have serious consequences.

If, for example, someone falls from a height and is not lifted properly, this can make the person’s injuries considerably worse, perhaps even permanently disabled.

Similarly, if someone needs CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and this is not provided on time, it may result in them losing their life.

A trained person has the skills to cope with these issues and provide immediate emergency first aid, prior to the emergency services arriving.

How many first aiders you need?

The number of first aiders you need do vary from organisation to organisation.

An employer needs to carry out their first aid needs assessment, where can identify how many first aiders they need at their workplace and what facilities are required to support that provision.

However, HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has prepared a guidance around the needs and assessment, commonly known as L74 guidance ‘First Aid at Work’.

Under this guidance, it is suggested to have at least one appointed person for fewer than 25 workers, one emergency first aider at work for 25-50 workers and one first aider at work for more than 50 people in low-hazard environment.

In higher-risk environments, it’s suggested to have at least one appointed person for fewer than four workers, one emergency first aider at work for 5-50 workers and one first aider at work for more than 50 people.

While making these considerations, an employer should consider absence, holidays and sickness of a trained first aider and how cover will be provided in their absence.

What to include in First Aid Kit?

Under regulations and guidance there is no mandatory list of items to be included in first aid box or first aid facility.

However, under L74 guidance of HSE, it’s suggested to have a leaflet on general advice on first aid:

  • 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters,
  • two sterile eye pads
  • two individually wrapped triangular bandages (preferably sterile)
  • six safety pins
  • two large individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressing
  • six medium size sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressing
  • at least three pairs of disposable gloves to be placed in first aid box or facility

However, the actual requirement should be considered via a first aid need assessment. It’s also important to consider regular checks of first aid box for content, so the contents haven’t expired or are cover with dust and are therefore clean and ready to use in case of emergency.

Case study

In August 2023, a company owner was sentenced for ten months prison at a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court, after a worker was killed at work whilst working on the removal of the flat rear bed of a tipper van, to salvage parts.

The hydraulic system of tipper bed was released, while arm support was not in place, resulting in the flat bed to fall and crush the mechanic while he was working underneath.

While the company owner and two other employees managed to take him out, he was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with multiple internal injuries and later died of those injuries.

The subsequent HSE investigation found that there was no risk assessment, safe system of work, first aid provisions, training or lifting equipment in place. Having those in place, would have likely avoided this incident.

Considering the importance of first aid training, facilities and equipment, and how it does saves lives, it is vital to have first aid facilities and trained personnel in any workplace.

Not only will this comply with the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, but it will also help save people’s lives.

Who knows, it might be you, needing the first aid next time. So, be prepared and be safe.