5 different first aid at work requirements for every business

Written by Anna Bishop
Aug 3, 2021

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

According to the health and safety at work summary statistics for Great Britain 2020, 0.7 million workers sustained a non-fatal injury in 2019/20, while the annual cost of workplace injury in 2018/19 was £5.6 billion.

These figures clearly show the importance of having adequate first aid provision in the workplace. But the trouble is, first aid regulations can be confusing.

Understanding what your responsibilities are and what actions you should take can be a challenge – and yet making sure you do understand them is crucial. That’s why we’ve outlined five key considerations every business should factor in while making their first aid arrangements, to help you make the right decisions to create a safer workplace.


1. Get to know the regulations

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 sets out the key aspects of first aid that all employers should address to keep their employees safe in the workplace. As the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) explains, the regulations require employers to provide ‘adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work'.

The first aid at work regulations apply to all businesses, including those with fewer than five employees and the self-employed – so whatever the size of your business, duty holders have a responsibility to put the necessary first aid provisions in place.

The first aid measures considered to be ‘adequate and appropriate’ depend on the circumstances in each workplace. The employer or duty holder (the person tasked with maintaining health and safety in the workplace) should therefore carry out an assessment of needs to determine exactly what should be provided.


2. How to undertake a first aid needs assessment

Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to first aid in the workplace, employers should undertake a first aid needs assessment.

According to HSE guidelines, your needs assessment should consider:

  • The nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks.
  • The nature of the workforce.
  • The organisation’s history of accidents.
  • The size of the organisation.
  • 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 guidelines also stress the need for individual assessment of the workplace to identify unique risks that require further first aid provision.

Our first aid at work guide contains sample needs assessment to help you with your own.

It’s also important to note that your first aid needs may be different from usual during the current Covid-19 pandemic. This is due to additional factors to you need to consider including how to arrange first aid cover if you have reduced staff levels in the workplace; the potential exposure of first aiders to Covid-19, and how to support lone workers with first aid provisions. 


3. What should be in your first aid kit?

Once you have completed your first aid needs assessment, you’ll need to ensure you have the ‘adequate and appropriate’ provisions in place.

As a minimum, the HSE requires employers to provide a first aid kit - preferably one that is compliant with BS 8599 (the standard for UK first aid kits). There is no mandatory list of items to include, so the contents should be influenced by the outcome of your needs assessment.

As a guide, the HSE lists an example of what a first aid kit may include where the work activities are low risk:

  • A leaflet giving general guidance on first aid.
  • At least twenty individually wrapped sterile plasters in assorted sizes that are appropriate to the type of work being undertaken (hypoallergenic plasters can be provided if necessary).
  • Two sterile eye pads.
  • Two individually wrapped triangular bandages - preferably sterile.
  • Six safety pins.
  • Two large, sterile, individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings.
  • Six medium-sized sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings.
  • At least three pairs of disposable gloves (see the HSE’s guidance on latex gloves).


However, this is not an exhaustive list of what your first aid kit should contain: additional risks outlined in your first aid needs assessment may mean you require further resources.


4. Who should you choose as a first aider?

If your needs assessment identifies a need for first aiders on site, you’ll need to decide which of your employees will be trained on a first aid course.

Because the duties of a first-aider can be physically and mentally demanding, it’s important to make the right choice. You should consider the following factors when choosing employees to fulfil this role:

  • Willingness: Is being a first-aider something the employee actually wants to do? Is it something they can take pride in?
  • Capability: Is the employee mentally able to fulfil the role? Are they calm and confident enough to act reasonably in the case of an emergency?
  • Ability: Is the employee physically able to perform first aid?
  • Availability: Can the employee fulfil the first-aider role without it affecting their work?

You must also have first aiders on site at all times, factoring in annual leave, shift patterns and absences, so it’s important to bear this in mind as well.


5. How to select the right first aid training course

The next step is to make sure the employees you have selected become qualified first aiders, by selecting a first aid course specific to the risks identified in your needs assessment.

Having trained first aiders will help keep your employees safe. First aid is incredibly important: besides being essential to fulfil your legal obligations, it can reduce pain for the injured or ill, prevent further serious injury and preserve life before the emergency services arrive.

In addition, it can improve confidence in your employees, as trained first aiders are given the chance to learn new skills that they can be proud of. First aiders can help provide a safer and more positive work environment where employees feel like they are cared about. As well as ensuring you are compliant, having trained first aiders on site lets your employees know you are serious about their wellbeing.

Many companies require first-aiders to learn first aid skills covered in a one day training session, such as an emergency first aid at work course. If your first aid needs assessment identifies a requirement for additional training, for example if you have employees with a medical condition, a more in-depth course - such as a three day first aid at work course - is more appropriate. For those companies with additional first aid requirements (such as companies in an industry with unique hazards), a bespoke course is also an option. Our first aid course finder will help you choose the right course for your business.

Download our free, easy to read guide for more information and to ensure you’re taking all the required first aid steps to create a safe and compliant workplace.

guide to first aid at work

Topics: First Aid

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