What are an employer’s responsibilities under the first aid at work legislation?

Written by James Reed
Dec 6, 2019

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

Under the first aid at work legislation, better known as The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, employers are legally required to arrange for the immediate care of any staff who have an accident or become ill while they are at work.

However, while HSE regulations place responsibility on duty holders to provide first aid for their employees, they do not explicitly state what is required within your unique working environment. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the duty holder to determine the exact first aid provisions needed based on the individual nature and circumstances of their workplace.


What is The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 were introduced as part of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in order to set out the essential aspects of first aid that all employers need to address.

It provides a number of key requirements that duty holders must meet in order to be compliant in the workplace. These regulations mean that every employer has a duty of care to provide first aid, regardless of the size or scope of their business. 

The regulations state that duty holders must provide “adequate and appropriate” equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure that employees receive immediate attention “in the event of injury or sudden illness at work”.


What does ‘adequate and appropriate’ mean?

This term, which is used throughout the regulations, means an employer must have a first aid procedure in place that matches the risk level identified in their first aid needs assessment and is in accordance with any first aid legal requirements.

Ultimately an employer’s responsibility when it comes to first aid in the workplace is to take any measures necessary to ensure that their employees and anyone else on-site is able to access first aid in the case of illness or injury. Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, so provisions for first aid need to be available whenever a person is in the workplace.

Want to know more about how to comply with first aid at work legislation? We cover this and more in The complete guide to first aid at work.


What does an employer need to do in order to be compliant?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 are ambiguous about what exactly is required of duty holders in order to be compliant. As such, the provisions you decide to take are entirely dependent on your specific workplace environment, and the risk level of the work being undertaken.

The legislation states that the minimum first aid provisions you must have in place are:

  • A first aid kit: While there are no specific requirements for what needs to be in the first aid kit itself, the contents of your kit should reflect the outcome of your first aid needs assessment.
  • An appointed person: If your first aid needs assessment indicated that a first-aider is not required, as specified by HSE, the "minimum requirement is to appoint a person to take charge of first aid arrangements".

Both of these provisions should be determined by the first aid needs assessment. 

What needs to be examined in a first aid needs assessment is entirely dependent on the individual business. According to the The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, in order to assess the “adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel” you require within your workplace, there are six specific factors you must consider:

  • Number of employees 
  • Specific employee conditions or illnesses
  • Number of visitors (HSE strongly recommends that you include them in your assessment)
  • General hazards of the workplace
  • Multiple sites assessment
  • HSE guidance for your industry

A more in-depth checklist of what you need to consider can be found below:

Table 3 - What is an employers responsibility under the faw legislation-1

Having carried out a first aid needs assessment, you should be in a position to decide if you need a first-aider, as well as any specific health and safety measures you may need to take in order to provide “adequate and appropriate” first aid equipment and facilities.

As long as a thorough first aid needs assessment is undertaken, and the appropriate measures are put in place that reflect its outcomes, you can help ensure compliance with legislation and the safety of your employees. 

guide to first aid at work

Topics: First Aid

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