First Aid provision – why do I need it?

Well, quite simply because accidents happen – and usually at the most unexpected and inconvenient moment.  If you’re an employer you have a duty of care to your staff.  That is, to make sure they get immediate help if they become ill or have an accident while at work.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance now also refers to support for mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Your legal responsibilities as an employer

Employers are responsible for making sure that their employees get immediate help if they are injured or become ill at work.  Accidents and illness can happen at any time and first aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming life-threatening.  Not providing competent first aid could lead to a death.

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 state that employers must make ‘adequate and appropriate’ first-aid arrangements for your workplace.  This may include equipment, facilities and first aiders and the regulations apply to all workplaces and the self-employed, even those with less than 5 employees. To decide what is ‘adequate and appropriate’ enough for you, you need to think about the type of work your business does, your staff and any particular risks or hazards specific to your situation.  A First Aid Needs Assessment can guide you through this.

As an example, a small, low-risk workplace might only need a first-aid box and a person appointed to take charge of first-aid arrangements like calling the emergency services and stocking the first-aid box.  The ‘appointed person’ does not have to be first-aid trained.  On the other hand, if your workplace has more significant health and safety risks, such as using machinery or hazardous materials then you are more likely to need a trained first-aider.  A First Aid Needs Assessment will help you decide on the level of training they will need.

Employers are responsible for making sure that their employees get immediate help if they are injured or become ill at work.  Accidents and illness can happen at any time and first aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming life-threatening.  Not providing competent first aid could lead to a death.

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 state that employers must make ‘adequate and appropriate’ first-aid arrangements for your workplace.  This may include equipment, facilities and first aiders and the regulations apply to all workplaces and the self-employed, even those with less than 5 employees. To decide what is ‘adequate and appropriate’ enough for you, you need to think about the type of work your business does, your staff and any particular risks or hazards specific to your situation.  A First Aid Needs Assessment can guide you through this.

As an example, a small, low-risk workplace might only need a first-aid box and a person appointed to take charge of first-aid arrangements like calling the emergency services and stocking the first-aid box.  The ‘appointed person’ does not have to be first-aid trained.  On the other hand, if your workplace has more significant health and safety risks, such as using machinery or hazardous materials then you are more likely to need a trained first-aider.  A First Aid Needs Assessment will help you decide on the level of training they will need.

What do I need to do?

As an employer, you know your workplace best and are therefore in the best position to establish what is ‘adequate and appropriate’ cover for your circumstances.

Everyone needs some level of provision, even if you are self-employed.  You should have enough first aid equipment, facilities and personnel at all times.  This will very much depend on your level of risk.  Details of the first aid arrangements you have in place should be communicated with all staff.

The minimum first aid provision in any workplace is:

  • a suitably stocked first aid kit
  • an appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements
  • information for staff about first aid arrangements

What should I think about when assessing my first aid needs?

When deciding on the level of cover you need, you should think about:

  • the type of work you do
  • the hazards and risks involved in your work
  • the size, nature and distribution of your workforce
  • whether you have any staff who travel, work remotely or alone?
  • the work patterns of your staff
  • holiday and other absences of your first-aiders and appointed persons
  • your organisation’s history of accidents
  • how far from help you are and how easy it would be for emergency services to get to your workplace
  • whether you and/or your employees share a site with other businesses
  • whether you need to make provision for non-employees e.g visitors or members of the public

If you’re not sure whether you have the right level of cover, use our First Aid Needs Assessment tool to help you evaluate your risk.

What is the difference between an appointed person and a first aider?

An appointed person is someone who has been given responsibility for managing the first aid arrangements e.g ordering and stocking up first aid equipment or calling the Emergency Services if there is an accident.  An appointed person does not have to be first aid trained, however this is only a minimum requirement for the lowest risk workplaces with low numbers of employees.  There is always the possibility that an accident or sudden illness might happen.

A first-aider is someone who has been trained by a competent first aid training provider in first aid at work, emergency first aid at work, or another appropriate level of training (identified by your needs assessment). 

There are 3 levels of training:

  • Emergency First Aid in the Workplace (EFAW)
  • First Aid in the Workplace (FAW)
  • Enhanced / additional training e.g Paediatric or Forestry First Aid, or other specialist first aid training relevant to the particular circumstances of your workplace

If you decide (after a needs assessment) that you need a first aider, HSE has published information to help you choose a competent training provider.

How do I choose a First Aider?

Choosing a first aider for your workplace depends upon a number of factors.  The person(s) best suited should:

  • have good communication skills
  • be reliable
  • have an ability to learn new skills and retain knowledge
  • be able to cope with stressful situations and physically demanding emergency procedures
  • have normal duties in the workplace which DO NOT prevent them responding quickly to an emergency

It is not necessary for a first aider to have good literacy skills, but some provision must be made for the recording of any incident, even if another person is responsible for this aspect of the role.

It is important that someone is always available to take charge of the first-aid arrangements, including looking after the equipment and facilities and calling the emergency services when required. Arrangements should be made for an appointed person to be available to undertake these duties at all times when people are at work.  You may have first aiders in addition to this.

The minimum level of first-aid equipment you may need is a suitably stocked first-aid box or first-aid kit.  You should provide at least one first-aid kit for each of your premises, although more than one might be required on larger sites.  Each kit should be stocked with enough first-aid materials to suit the particular circumstances of your workplace.

First-aid kits should be made easily accessible and should be visible – in the UK, they should be green with a white cross. The contents of first-aid kit should be checked frequently and restocked soon after any use.  You should have enough ‘spare’ equipment to make sure you never run out.  Buying refill packs for existing first aid boxes is a cost-effective option to ensure you have all the recommended equipment.

As well as the recommended items, your needs assessment may suggest that additional materials and equipment are required eg a defibrillator or thermometer.  Larger items may need to be stored separately e.g in a first aid room.

HSE has published further guidance on first aid equipment which gives advice on the minimum contents of a first-aid kit.

A first-aid room might be needed, especially in larger premises or where higher hazards are present. The room should be easily accessible and a designated person should be given responsibility for managing it.  Wherever possible, a first-aid room should only be used for the purposes of first aid.

First-aid rooms should:

  • be large enough to hold an examination bed/couch;
  • have washable surfaces and adequate heating, ventilation and lighting;
  • be kept clean, tidy, accessible and available for use at all times when employees are at work;
  • ideally, have a sink with hot and cold running water;
  • be positioned as near as possible to a point of access for emergency services.

First aid rooms should display a notice on the door advising of the names, locations and, if appropriate, contact details for first-aiders. This information should also be displayed around the building.

HSE has published further guidance on equipment and facilities that you may require in a first aid room.

Recording Incidents

Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.

Keeping records will help you to identify patterns in the incidence of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment. Your insurance company may also want to see your records if there is a work-related claim.  First aid records should be kept securely and confidentially for 7 years.

RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) puts responsibility on employers, the self-employed and responsible persons to report certain serious accidents, diseases, dangerous occurrences and near misses which happen in the workplace.

HSE publishes a list of ‘reportable’ incidents.