In small low risk businesses like offices and shops, there is no legal requirement to have a trained first aider. However, having knowledge of first aid at work, and a trained first aider in the workplace can reduce the effects of injury or illness, and could well save a life.
First aid at Work Regulations
All employers have a legal duty of care for their workers. Every workplace must have a well stocked first aid kit, and an ‘appointed person’ to take charge if first aid is needed.
Staff should be aware of first aid arrangements, such as location of the first aid kit. The kit must cater for people who don’t speak English or have reading difficulties.
Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981
Under these regulations, revised in October 2009, all employers have a duty to provide adequate first-aid arrangements. This includes small businesses (less than five employees) and the self-employed.
However, the rules are more strict for larger workplaces or those with higher risks. That means an assessment should be done to calculate the number of first aiders needed.
First Aid Training Requirements at Work
If you are a small, low risk business then your ‘appointed person’ does NOT need first aid training. However, you might like to enrol them on an emergency first aid course.
Their responsibilities are only to look after first aid equipment and to call the emergency services when needed. In a larger workplace, an appointed person can be used for emergency cover when a first-aider is unavailable.
If you have 25-50 employees, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that you have at least one person trained in Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW).
In workplaces with a higher number of employees, it is recommended that you have one fully trained first-aider for every 100 workers.
While an emergency first aider should have a certificate in EFAW from a recognised organisation, a first aider should undertake extra training for a certificate in First Aid at Work (FAW.)
However, first aid provision needs to take account of BOTH the size of your business and the risks involved.
For example, an employer with only six employees will need someone trained in EFAW or a fully qualified first aider if it is a higher risk workplace. High risk workplaces include warehousing, manufacturing or a business using machinery.
It’s also important to remember that extra rules apply to some workplaces such as offshore facilities, mines and quarries and other high risk occupations.
First Aid Qualifications
Certificates in either FAW or EFAW can be issued by an HSE approved training organisation and are valid for 3 years.
Many first aiders also go on annual refresher training courses. These are not compulsory but are highly recommended by the HSE to keep skills up-to-date.
Choosing a First Aider
Employers should try to find a reliable person with good communication skills. Ideally, a first-aider is someone who works well under pressure and doesn’t panic.
It is also important that their usual work allows them to respond immediately to an incident. Responsibilities of a qualified first-aider include:
- Being in charge of first-aid equipment and facilities.
- Caring for employees with minor injuries/illnesses such as cuts and burns, stomach bugs and headaches.
- Calling an ambulance in an emergency.
- Providing immediate help for serious injuries or illnesses, such as collapse.
An employer’s first aid responsibility only covers workers. There is no duty to provide first-aid provision for non-workers, such as members of the public.
However, the HSE says places such as shopping centres, airports, schools, fairground and entertainment centres include the public in their assessment of first aid needs.
What Should be in a First Aid Kit?
There is no set list of contents for a workplace first aid kit. You should stock your first aid kit based on likely hazards.
For example, a bakery would require different contents to a chemicals factory since typical accidents would differ. Employers should assess the workplace and choose items which are likely to be in demand.
That said, it is recommended that as a minimum, a low-hazard workplace first-aid kit should include:
- Triangular bandages.
- Safety pins.
- Disposable gloves.
- Medium and large sterile, unmedicated wound dressings.
- Individually wrapped sterile plasters (hypoallergenic plasters may be needed).
- Sterile eye patches.
- Leaflet giving basic first aid advice.
Expiry dates should be checked (especially on sterile items) and all items should be re-stocked regularly. Extra items are often useful including scissors, tweezers and eye baths. If there is no running water available, you should provide bottled sterile water for eye irrigation.
If an employee carries their own medicines, a first-aider can help them to use it. However, first aiders should NOT give out tablets or medicines and you should not keep them in your first-aid kit. The only exception to this is aspirin which can be stocked and given for a suspected heart attack.