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A guide to workplace first aid

A snippet from First Aid at Work Refresher Training

We’re thrilled to announce that we will soon be releasing two new courses which will be added to our First Aid Bundle! Our First Aid at Work Refresher and Emergency First Aid at Work Refresher courses are perfect refreshers for those who have already completed their first aid practical training and make sure that your knowledge is up to date and accurate. 

There are many reasons why first aid is needed at work. First Aid in the workplace can range from dealing with minor burns and cuts, to preventing an injury from becoming a serious threat and in serious cases, can even save someone's life. If injuries are serious enough then there should be procedures in place for contacting the emergency services.

When it comes to first aid in the workplace, everyone has responsibilities - both employers and employees...

Employer Responsibilities

Employers are responsible for the safety of everyone at the workplace and so have a legal duty to ensure that they have a sufficient number of trained first aiders; whether or not the injury is work-related or happens to a member of staff or the general public (on work premises), they will be called upon to act. 

Employers must carry out risk assessments in order to determine what level of first aid provision is considered “adequate and appropriate”. Whatever arrangements they set up needs to be communicated with staff - this includes what first aid equipment is available, what facilities there are, and who in the organisation is first aid trained.

There is no legal responsibility for employers to factor non-staff into their first aid risk assessments but the HSE recommends that they are included as doing so could very well save a life. 

What about the self-employed?

Self-employed workers are responsible for their own safety and so must ensure that they have appropriate provisions and facilities in place to keep themselves safe. If they work in a shared workspace then it may be convenient to share safety responsibilities, however, the HSE recommends that any agreements are in writing.

Employees Responsibilities

Employees do not have any direct responsibilities when it comes to first aid at work (unless they are trained as a First Aider) but it might be worth noting to your employer of any health issues so that they can be considered in the first aid needs assessment. 

For example, if you have a condition where you might need an auto-injector or a spray for heart conditions, you should inform your employer. In this case, employers can make sure first aiders get the correct training to ensure they can look after you, should you become ill at work.

Legislation

The first aid legislation for those working in particularly high-risk environments is much more specific and demanding, e.g. people in offshore installations and undersea divers. People in these environments should read their specific safety legislation but, in general, the legislation which applies to everyone includes:

The Health And Safety At Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

This regulation assigns responsibility to employers to complete a risk assessment and, if possible, eliminate or control the risks as far as is reasonably practicable.

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013)

Both employers and the self-employed are required to report injuries that fall under RIDDOR. Not all incidents are reportable but RIDDOR applies to all work activities. Accident Report Books are also recommended for all workplaces and legally required in workplaces with 10 or more employees.

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981

This Act requires employers to provide 'adequate and appropriate facilities, personnel and equipment' so that first aid can be administered if someone becomes ill or injured at work.

First Aid Needs Assessment

Legislation requires that employers provide “adequate and appropriate” provisions for first aid, but just what is considered “adequate and appropriate” is largely left up to individual employers. To help, employers should carry out a First Aid Needs Assessment. The HSE suggests that this should consider:

  • The nature of the work you do
  • Workplace hazards and risks 
  • The nature and size of your workforce
  • The work patterns of your staff
  • Any scheduled holiday or other absences of first aiders
  • Your organisation’s history of accidents

You may also need to consider:

  • The needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
  • The distribution of your workforce
  • The remoteness of any of your sites from emergency medical services
  • Whether your employees work on shared or multi-occupancy sites
  • Any first-aid provisions for non-employees (e.g. members of the public).

Your assessment may very well highlight a need for Mental Health First Aiders. Here at iHASCO, we have two mental health first aiders who do a fantastic job of being a point of contact for employees experiencing emotional distress or suffering from mental health problems. Find out more about Mental Health First Aiders in our blog 'Mental Health First Aiders - what are they and why do you need them?'.

First Aid Provisions

As an absolute bare minimum, every workplace should have a first aid box. Your First Aid Needs Assessment may suggest that you need additional or more specific equipment which you can add to the box or store nearby. 

If clean, running tap water is not available on-site, then you’ll need to keep at least 1 litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9%) with the first aid box.

First Aid Kit

In a typical, low-risk work environment, a first aid box might contain:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid (for example, HSE's leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work);
  • individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (hypoallergenic plasters can be provided if necessary);
  • sterile eye pads;
  • individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile;
  • safety pins;
  • large sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings;
  • medium-sized sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings;
  • disposable gloves (for advice on latex gloves please see Selecting latex gloves)
This list is just a suggestion, contents will vary according to the level of risk at a workplace.

HSE

First Aid Facilities

First aid facility means a dedicated room in which first aid can be provided. If your First Aid Needs Assessment suggests that one is needed then somebody, a first aider, will need to be responsible for keeping it clean, clear, and ready to use. The HSE recommend that first aid facilities should contain: 

  • A sink (with both hot and cold running water)
  • A chair
  • An examination couch with waterproof protection
  • Clean drinking water and cups
  • Foot-operated pedal bins with the correct waste bags (e.g. clinical)
  • Soap and paper towels
  • An Accident Book for making records of injuries 

First Aid Personnel

Appointed Person

As an absolute minimum, every workplace should have a first aid appointed person. They act as a point of contact for the emergency services, are responsible for maintaining and restocking first aid supplies, and for keeping any first aid facilities ready to use. 

An appointed person does not need to be first aid trained, in which case they will not be able to perform first aid.

First Aider

A first aider is someone who has undertaken certified first aid training. There are no specific requirements for the number of first aiders needed in a workplace but a First Aid Needs Assessment coupled with HSE guidance should help determine how many are necessary.

All first aiders will hold a certificate in First Aid at Work (FAW), Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW), or other first aid training appropriate to the nature of the work being carried out at their workplace. Training is usually valid for around 3 years but it’s highly recommended that refresher training is taken annually.

First Aid Training

The HSE no longer provide training courses in first aid at work, neither do they approve external training or qualifications. This gives employers more choice for first aid training providers. These providers should be able to show they can meet criteria provided by HSE and the principles of assessment for first aid qualifications by Skills for Health.

First Aiders will typically be given the option of 2 types of training: 

Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) - which allows them to provide emergency first aid if someone is ill or injured at work - or 

First Aid at Work (FAW) - which includes EFAW as well as training for specific injuries and illnesses.

(Sometimes employers will recognise a need for other training outside of this too).

We offer a range of CPD Accredited and RoSPA Approved First Aid Courses that can be used as awareness training after or before people have completed their practical first aid training or as useful refreshers for Appointed Persons. Why not get started with a free no-obligation trial today or register your interest in our upcoming courses?

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