What is a high-hazard business in first aid at work legislation?

Written by James Reed
Mar 19, 2020

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

Hazards and risks play a big part in determining what equipment, facilities and personnel are needed for first aid in your workplace. For many, the difference between a hazard and risk is confusing. This blog will look to explain the difference and how it impacts on first aid.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require workplaces to carry out a first aid needs assessment. This is different to a risk assessment which many are more familiar with, as it looks more specifically at the potential outcome of an accident, or someone being taken ill, and the first aid resources that may be needed if this wasn't prevented or preventable.

For a clear, yet comprehensive guide to fulfilling all of your first aid duties, download our eBook:  'The complete guide to first aid at work'

The difference between hazards and risks in first aid at work

Hazard: this is something that could potentially cause harm e.g. working at height or with electricity.

Risk: this is the degree of likelihood that harm will be caused. In some cases risk can be reduced by putting measures in place, such as protective clothing or safety equipment - you should still consider worst case scenarios when looking at what first aid provision is needed.

Example - hydrochloric acid: if someone was working with hydrochloric acid, then the acid is a hazard. The severity of harm that could occur from the hazard is high - if it's inhaled it can cause breathing problems and if it gets into the eyes it can cause blindness. It's therefore a high level hazard.

How likely it is to occur depends on a number of risks. But the probability of it happening can be reduced significantly if you have taken steps to mitigate them e.g. always dealing with it through protective headwear, gloves and goggles or putting training and supervisory measures in place to deal with inexperienced workers. it would then be considered a lower risk.

Providing an adequate level of first aid equipment and personnel then reduced the degree of injury that can occur further.

Hazards and risks are often identified in a routine risk assessment but a first aid needs assessment looks wider than this and focuses more specifically on the potential outcomes in terms of injury or illness. It doesn't even matter if the injury or illness is as a direct result of the work they do, what is important is that they receive immediate attention and an ambulance is called in more serious cases. A needs assessment has to consider what equipment, facilities and personnel would be needed to ensure employees receive immediate medical attention should they be injured or taken ill at work.

Taking a holistic approach to assessing your business will help ensure you have everything in place should a first aid emergency happen.

A useful checklist to identify first-aid needs

As well as considering the hazards and what injuries may arise as a result, it's important to establish the probability of risk and other considerations that will indicate the level and location of your first aid provision.


Does your workplace have low-level hazards such as those that might be found in offices and shops? - Minimum provision would be an appointed person and a fully stocked first aid kit.

Does your workplace have higher-level hazards such as chemicals or dangerous machinery? Do your work activities involve special hazards such as hydrofluoric acid or confined spaces?

You should consider providing first aiders, potentially with additional training to help them deal with injuries resulting from these special hazards as well as a suitably stocked first aid kit and equipment. You may want to provide information to the emergency services in advance if a specialist hazard is involved.

Your risk assessment will likely have identified hazards. this may include chemicals, machinery, slips, trips and falls, working at height, manual handling to name but a few - all of these will impact on the first aid training you provide to your team - you need to make sure training includes treatment for the potential injuries that may require first aid.


1. People

How many people are employed on site?

If there are more than 25 people, even in a low hazard environment, you should consider trained first aiders for higher hazard environments this will be as low as 5.

Are there inexperienced workers on site that may increase the risk, or employees with disabilities or particular health problems?

You may need to provide specific training or equipment to first aiders to ensure that they are able to help e.g. an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) if a risk of heart problems is identified or training on severe allergic reactions if someone has an allergy.

2. Accidents and ill health records

What is your record of accidents and ill health? What injuries and illnesses have occurred and where did they happen

You should ensure you are able to cater for the types of injuries and illnesses that have previously occurred. You should monitor accidents and ill health records to make sure training and equipment is appropriate - this information may even help to prevent re-occurrence.

3. Working arrangements

Do you have employees who travel a lot, work remotely or work alone?

You may want to provide a personal first aid kit or a phone to ensure they can get help if needed.

Do any of your employees work shifts or out-of-hours?

You should ensure there is adequate first-aid provision at all times for people who are at work.

Are the premises spread out, e.g. are there several buildings on the site or multi-floor buildings?

You should consider the need for provision in each building or on each floor to ensure help can be sought quickly.

Is your workplace remote from emergency medical services?

You may need to make arrangements for emergency services or provide additional training for first aiders if help is likely to be delayed or unavailable. 

Do you have a sufficient provision to cover absences of first aiders or appointed persons? If someone is on holiday or out of the office for meetings or lunch, first aid provision still needs to be available.

What about Non-employees?

Under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, you have no legal duty to provide first aid for non-employees but HSE (Health and Safety Executive) strongly recommends that you include them in your first-aid provision.

First aid needs assessment examples

How do you determine what levels of first aid provision can seem confusing.

Additional training needs should, in theory, be relatively straight forward so long as you review the content for the course you have booked to make sure it covers everything you need.

For example, in forestry, chainsaw injuries could result in catastrophic bleeding and suspension trauma can arise from working in harnesses at height. However, these are not routinely covered in a standard in standard First Aid at Work course.

Specialist equipment may extend far beyond what even the HSE recommend you consider.

For example, we worked with a high-security customer where emergency services would have to pass numerous security checks to get through the site. There would then be further delays whilst waiting for the area to be safe to enter.

As they also faced some high level hazards they identified the need for additional equipment, such as medical gases, splints and stretches so that they could remove someone from a dangerous hazardous area quickly - much more than the standard requirement.

The onus falls on you as an employer to undertake a first aid needs assessment to determine that appropriate level for your particular circumstances.

Adequate first aid provision can help to improve the outcomes of injuries and illnesses that occur, so it's important to fully understand your duties. That's why we've put together a helpful, clear and comprehensive eBook: The complete guide to first aid at work.

guide to first aid at work

Topics: First Aid

Share this story
Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on twitter

Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on twitter

Back to Index