The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide “adequate and appropriate” first aid provisions to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. In order to determine what these provisions are, companies should undertake a first-aid needs assessment.
The HSE advises duty holders to consider the “circumstances of your workplace, workforce and the hazards and risks” that may be present. The risks identified in your assessment will indicate what first aid provisions need to be put in place, such as the number of first-aiders and first aid kits required. In this blog, we outline some of the factors you need to consider when undertaking a first aid needs assessment, as well as the actions you need to take upon completion.
What needs to be considered when undertaking a first aid needs assessment?
Before undertaking a first aid needs assessment, duty holders must consider the specific conditions of their working environment, workforce and any hazards or risks that could be present. Therefore, when assessing what first aid provisions you should have in place, HSE guidelines strongly suggest you take a number of factors into consideration, such as:
- The nature of the work you do and the degree of hazard associated with your work.
- How many employees your organisation has and their individual job roles.
- History of accident or injury in your workplace.
- The number of sites your organisation has - each of these must be considered a separate site and each building will require its own first aid needs assessment to identify specific requirements for first aid provision.
- Any factors that may affect first aid provision (inexperienced employees, remote workplaces, absences of the first-aider etc).
If you have travelling, remote or lone workers.
- The distribution of your workforce.
- Whether your employees work on shared or multi-occupancy sites.
- If you require first-aid provision for non-employees (e.g. the public).
- How close your sites are to emergency medical services.
However, HSE’s suggestions are not exhaustive, and they stress the need for individual assessment of the workplace. If a particular type of accident or illness becomes common within your workplace, specialist first aid provisions may be needed that the HSE does not list as a requirement.
What can you expect to identify in a first aid needs assessment?
If followed correctly, the first aid needs assessment should identify the unique risks within your workplace and you should be able to evaluate what provisions are needed based on this. After undertaking the assessment, you can often expect to identify:
Specific risks that could result in injury or illnesS
For example, if you have recently acquired equipment that poses a new risk, this will need to be included in the first aid needs assessment to identify how dangerous it is in relation to the wider workplace. This helps duty holders determine what first aid provisions need to be in place.
What needs to be in your first aid kit
Specific health risks identified in the first aid needs assessment allow duty holders to determine what exactly should be included in their first aid kit. For example, certain risks may require additional provisions, which duty holders can account for when purchasing a first aid kit.
How many first-aiders you need
Where a first aid needs assessment identifies a requirement for more than an appointed person, duty holders can figure out how many first-aiders they need based on the specific risks outlined in the first aid needs assessment.
For example, if you have multiple sites in your organisation, you will need to enrol a number of first-aiders across all sites on the first aid at work course that is appropriate for the risks identified in the assessment.
When risks and the necessary provisions to prevent them have been determined, duty holders need to ensure that the necessary provisions are put in place.
What needs to be done after a first aid needs assessment is complete?
Once you have completed a first aid needs assessment, you will need to make sure you have the adequate and appropriate provisions in place to reflect the outcome: how many first-aiders you need and the level of training they require, as well as how many first aid kits you need and any additional first aid provisions.
First aid kits
While the HSE lists no mandatory items that need to be included in a first aid kit, they strongly suggest having one that is compliant with BS 8599. This includes standard equipment such as sterile plasters, wound dressings and a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid (for example, HSE’s Basic advice on first aid at work). However, the exact contents of your first aid kit should be influenced by the outcome of your first aid needs assessment.
When the outcome of your first aid needs assessment identifies a need for first-aiders on site(s), you will need to enrol selected employees on a first aid course to become qualified. You should choose an appropriate first aid at work course based on the specific risks outlined in your assessment.
For example, if your workplace is low risk, you may only need to enrol first-aiders on a one day emergency first aid at work course; whereas higher risk environments will need first-aiders qualified through a more in-depth first aid at work course.
On top of first aid kits and first-aiders, duty holders are required to provide relevant first aid information to all employees. The HSE’s guide for employers states that as a minimum, all employees should be aware of what the first aid procedure is, who the first-aider(s) are and where the first aid kit(s) are located. Duty holders must also consider how quickly first aid provisions can be reached in an emergency, and ensure that first aid kits and first-aiders are distributed evenly throughout the building(s).
Any information required beyond this will be dependent on the outcome of the first aid needs assessment. For example, while not required by law, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are often included as part of a company’s first aid procedure, therefore under HSE guidelines, duty holders must provide employees with the location of this equipment should it be required.
Reviewing the first aid needs assessment
It is important for duty holders to note that the first aid needs assessment is an ongoing process, and it will need to be reviewed periodically subject to changing workplace conditions. Exactly when the assessment will need to be reviewed will depend on your company policy; however you should consider revising the document when the following circumstances arise:
- Whenever the specific risks identified previously begin to change due to a shift in work activities or environment.
- When your accident records highlight a new risk that hasn't been catered for before.
- When the risk posed to an individual changes; for example, if an employee has a heart attack, the first aid needs assessment will need to reflect this.
Ensuring that you are reviewing and updating your first aid needs assessment to mirror the exact nature of your workplace is an essential part of ensuring compliance with first aid regulations, as well as your duty of care for employees. By reviewing your first aid needs assessment at appropriate intervals, you can ensure that you consistently have the adequate amount of first-aiders and equipment to keep your employees safe.
For more information on best practice first aid in the workplace, download ‘The complete guide to first aid at work’. In our helpful guide, we cover everything you need to know about first aid at work, from advice on completing a first aid needs assessment (with examples), to how to select a first aid at work course.
Topics: First Aid