Accidents happen every day both at work and in your own home. A well stocked first aid box is essential, particularly in working environments where employers are legally obligated to provide adequate equipment.
But what should be in a first aid kit to offer adequate equipment in case of an accident?
In this article, we’ll delve into the key items you should have in a first aid kit in both home and work settings.
In both environments, you need to make sure you understand your own requirements in order to build a practical kit.
First Aid Kit Regulations
The HSE requires that first aid kits should be able to provide initial medical assistance when required. There will be times when this first aid can prevent serious injury or even death. Employers have a legal duty to ensure the workplace has sufficient means for dealing with injuries.
There is no specific law in place covering what must be in a workplace first aid kit. However, the contents should be relevant to the risks the job entails.
HSE guidelines also recommend taking into consideration the public as well as employees. Whilst the public is not the legal responsibility of the employer, it offers additional safety measures.
To ascertain what should be included in a first aid kit, it is essential to carry out a risk assessment. Employers can refer to British Standard BS 8599 if they wish to understand more about what to include in a work first aid kit.
First Aid Box Contents for Work
Bearing in mind that a workplace first aid kit can provide vital medical treatment, getting the contents right is essential. You should aim to tailor the first aid box to your environment.
However, there will be many generic items that will suit many workspaces. Once you have carried out a first aid box assessment, you will understand what you need for your own environment. Below we have shared some of the essential contents for work.
- Adult sized foil blankets.
- Microporous tape
- Sterile cleansing wipes.
- Non sterile disposable triangular bandages.
- Nitrile powder free gloves.
- Revive Aid
- Burnshield dressings
- Sterile Eye Pad Dressings.
- Medium and large HSE sterile dressings.
- Sterile finger dressings.
- Conforming bandages
- Waterproof plasters
- First aid booklet.
- Safety pins
- Various creams eg wasp sting cream
- Antiseptic cream
- Eye wash
- Face shield
- Disposable aprons
- Distilled water
- Wall bracket
All of the above are good examples of what a work first aid kit should contain. Each setting will look a little different, depending on the risks identified.
Below, we go into some more detail on why each of the contents is important and when they should be used.
See Also: First Aid in the Workplace.
Cuts and grazes can happen in any workplace and should be in a first aid box whatever the industry. Some environments may call for certain colours of plasters, such as kitchen workers who are asked to use blue ones.
Plasters are the go to item of a first aid box for everyone. Having the appropriate dressings means you can treat the injury and carry on. This prevents infection and blood from getting into places it shouldn’t. Blister plasters are also a sensible addition to the first aid kit. Many people on their feet all day might suffer from blisters or other foot ailments.
Some cuts cannot be dealt with using a plaster. The wound may be deeper or have a larger surface area. This is the time to use sterile dressings instead.
They do the same job in that they prevent infection and stem any bleeding. Eye dressings can help protect eyes that have been injured until medical assistance can be sought. All first aid kits should contain dressings as plasters will often be too small to use.
Again, bandages can be used in a wide range of situations. They should be a staple addition to a workplace first aid kit.
Bandages can help control blood injuries and also assist with any strains or suspected breakages. They offer support to damaged parts of the body and can act as a splint as well. Triangular bandages are a common bandage to be used in the event of a suspected broken arm, collarbone or shoulder injury. Elasticated bandages can be used for damage to knees, ankles or elbows.
Your first aid box should not resemble a pharmacy, however, certain creams and medications are sensible. There are often some generic creams and ointments that can cover a range of scenarios.
At some point, during the working day, employees may require painkillers. Therefore, keeping items such as paracetamol and ibuprofen is a great idea. Creams and wipes are also a must as this can minimise the risk of an infection occurring.
Antihistamines, bite and sting creams and eye washes are all useful products for the first aid box too. Bites and allergic reactions can happen anytime, even indoors.
The first aider must be protected whilst administering any first aid to employees. This helps prevent infections from being transmitted, therefore keeping everyone safe.
Protective items include things such as aprons, gloves and face shields and masks. These reduce the likelihood of bodily fluids transferring from one person to another. Most workplaces have had items such as face masks and gloves since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Aprons help keep the first aider clean whilst they are administering first aid treatment. Gloves act as a barrier between the first aider and the injured person. All protective clothing helps keep everyone safe in the event of an accident or incident.
There are lots of small items that can be very useful in a first aid box. Without some of these, using other items may not be possible.
Scissors are a must. They can be useful when cutting a bandage to size, opening the packaging and cutting plasters. Tweezers are handy in the event of splinters, insect stings or tics. Safety pins can be used to tie bandages up and so can adhesive tape.
Many first aid boxes now contain thermometers. This was the primary symptom of coronavirus so many workplaces now have one.
Foil blankets are useful as a person who gets injured may go into shock and feel cold. It also helps prevent hypothermia in the event someone becomes very cold. A first aid book can also be very useful, especially when it comes to putting a bandage on correctly.
Once your first aid kit is stocked up and in a suitable location, you need to think of maintaining its upkeep. This involves replacing items when they are low and keeping an eye on expiration dates.
Many items in the first aid box will have an expiry date and these must be adhered to. Once the expiry date is reached, items need to be replaced. They become less effective at this point but can also begin to deteriorate which renders them unsafe to use.
Having a sheet or spreadsheet with all the items will be useful next to the first aid box. The list should include the number of items left for each product and the expiry date where applicable. This makes managing the items achievable.
First Aid Box Contents for Home
It is sensible for every home to have a first aid kit handy as accidents do occur in domestic environments too. Of course, if you run a business from your home then having a first aid kit is vital.
The type of first aid kit you need will vary depending on whether it is for domestic or business use. But, likewise, as with work first aid kits, there will be generic items suitable to cover all eventualities. Having a first aid box when working from home can be reassuring, especially when working alone. It is also a handy thing to have if there are children or young people in the home.
A first aid box for the home should contain the following items:
- Plasters of varying sizes.
- Sterile dressings
- Sterile eye dressings.
- Triangular bandages
- Support bandages
- Safety pins
- Disposable sterile gloves.
- Non alcoholic wipes.
- Sticky tape
- Rash cream
- Distilled water
- Eye wash
Items should be relevant to the lifestyle and hobbies of the family they will be used for. For families that enjoy gardening and walking, it will be a good idea to keep stings and bites cream to hand.
For those keen on cooking, some first aid that will treat non serious burns is a sensible plan.
Again, some items will have an expiry date on them so should be disposed of when this is reached. Keep an eye on the contents running low and replace them as and when required.
How to Perform a First Aid Needs Assessment
Employers, by law, need to have adequate procedures and facilities in place to deal with accidents in the workplace.
This being said, there are no legal requirements for what should be included. Therefore, it is up to each employer to assess what needs to be inside the first aid box. It should be useful, bearing the environment in mind.
Many workplaces allocate an employee to be responsible for maintaining and replenishing the first aid box. A first aid needs test should be carried out to determine what items are suitable for the kit.
The following should be considered:
- What work is carried out on the premises?
- Risks in the workplace and the likelihood of each of these.
- A look at the history of accidents that have occurred in the workplace.
- Size of the workplace and number of staff.
- Staff shift patterns.
- Holidays and other absences of the first raiders.
- How many first aid boxes are required, e.g. one for each floor.
Employers need to identify an employee as the appointed person to be in charge of all things first aid related. Larger companies may need more than one person responsible for this.
Qualified first aiders may be required in businesses with large numbers of staff. In smaller settings, an appointed person will suffice. An appointed person should regularly check and maintain the first aid boxes. It should be well stocked and all items should be within the expiry date.
Despite having an appointed person, the responsibility comes down to the employer. For this reason, they must ensure everything is running as it should.