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What are the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981?

First aid course snippet

Giving the correct first aid medical attention can save a life and stop smaller injuries becoming major ones. These regulations apply to all workplaces regardless of their number of employees and even if someone is self-employed.

A self-employed person shall provide, or ensure that there is provided, such equipment, if any, as is adequate and appropriate in the circumstances to enable him to render first-aid to himself while he is at work.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981

Employer responsibilities 

  • Under these regulations, employers have a responsibility to:
  • Ensure employees who are injured or taken ill receive immediate attention
  • provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel 
  • Conduct a first-aid needs assessment
  • Provide first aid training

First Aid means - 

(a)in cases where a person will need help from a medical practitioner or nurse, treatment for the purpose of preserving life and minimising the consequences of injury and illness until such help is obtained, and

(b)treatment of minor injuries which would otherwise receive no treatment or which do not need treatment by a medical practitioner or nurse; 

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981

While the legislation itself entails the need for the first aid provisions, the HSE also provides guidance on what employers need to do to address first aid in the workplace.  

First Aid Needs Assessment 

The HSE state that the regulations require ‘adequate and appropriate’ first-aid equipment, facilities and people at work. What is considered ‘adequate and appropriate’ will vary from workplace to workplace, the employer should consider whether they work in a low-level or high-level hazard workplace through a ‘first-aid needs assessment’ and this should inform your first-aid provisions. The equipment, facilities and personnel provided should allow people to give immediate assistance to injuries and summon ambulances. 

The HSE have also provided a document including first-aid needs assessment case studies as a demonstrating of first-aid needs that you may require in various workplaces. 

First Aiders

First aiders should be practically trained in FAW and/or EFAW every three years, with refresher training being strongly recommended every year. The HSE states “Where 25 or more people are employed, even in low-hazard environments, at least one such person should be provided”. There is no guidance of exact numbers of first aiders needed at work and there are no hard and fast rules, but the following guide can be used as rough guidance on how many first aiders you need. 

There are 4 optional levels of first-aider provisions provided by the HSE:

  • appointed person (AP)
  • emergency first aid at work (EFAW) - 6 hours over 1 day
  • first aid at work (FAW) - 18 hours over 3 days 
  • additional training

If the employer does not think a first-aider is required, then an appointed person should take responsibility for first-aid arrangements. 

First Aid Equipment

After the first aid assessment, employees should be provided with the level of equipment that is found to be required. The minimum level of first-aid equipment is a suitably stocked first-aid container, but depending on the assessment, more than 1 with different items may be needed. Containers should have in date equipment and restocked if used. 

The HSE provides a suggested list of minimum stock for first aid boxes in a low-level hazard workplace: 

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid (eg HSE’s leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work – see Q10); 
  • 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters (of assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (you can provide hypoallergenic plasters if necessary); 
  • two sterile eye pads; 
  • four individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile; 
  • six safety pins; 
  • two large, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings; 
  • six medium-sized, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings; 
  • at least three pairs of disposable gloves (you can find more advice here). 

High-hazard workplaces will require more first aid equipment and facilities like first aid rooms. These may be found on construction sites or chemical industries. 

First Aid Training

To be qualified as a first-aider you will need the appropriate training, you will be able to get a certificate in first aid at work, emergency first aid or any other level of training or qualification that is appropriate to the circumstances. Certificates last for 3 years. 

Although it used to be possible, you are now no longer able to get first aid training through the HSE. Employers have a choice of training providers when employees are trained in first aid but the providers need to demonstrate that they are able to meet the criteria set by the HSE. 

These criteria include: the qualifications expected of trainers and assessors, monitoring and quality assurance systems, teaching and standards of first-aid practice, syllabus content and certification.


The first aid assessment will determine what kind of first-aider an employer needs. The two most typically required first-aiders are the First aid at work (FAW) and Emergency first aid at work (EFAW). EFAW allows an employee to provide emergency to someone who gets ill or injured at work. Whereas FAW includes EFAW and allows the employee to give first aid to a range of situations. 

First aid at work: your questions answered suggests what first-aid personnel you could have in different circumstances.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees do not have specific duties under the act but it is a good idea to inform employers of any existing medical issues you already have before they do their first aid assessment. There cannot be existing provisions unless the employer is aware. Medical conditions that could benefit from having specific equipment in the building like angina spray or an auto-injector should be known to your employer so that they can provide the correct equipment. 

Employees should be made aware by employers of the first aid equipment, facilities and personnel. 

Other Relevant Legislation

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995

These regulations assign responsibility to employers to report any serious workplace incidents, major injuries, ‘7-day injuries’, work-related diseases and ‘near miss’ accidents.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

This legislation covers the health and safety in UK workplaces. The HSE is responsible alongside local councils to enforce the Act. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005

This Order requires employers to provide training to ALL employees. The order was provided to give the minimum level of fire safety provisions in non-domestic properties.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

This puts a responsibility onto employers to protect employees from hazardous substances at work. There should be a risk assessment to determine the risks of exposure as well as what procedures are in place to deal with accidents/emergencies. 

Our First Aid Training Courses

Our First Aid Appointed Person and First Aid Requirements & RIDDOR Training courses can both be completed in under 20 minutes and are a useful refresher on what you need to report under RIDDOR, what first aid personnel you need and the First Aid Appointed Person’s responsibilities.

When you complete our Accident Reporting Training you will help increase workplace safety as well as helping to prevent future accidents. Additionally, we have a range of Health and Safety training courses.

We are soon to be releasing our First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work Refresher Training too! They both work alongside the practical training for FAW or EFAW training that you can take as a refresher or to build your knowledge before taking the practical course. Browse our range of online first aid courses today.

Online First Aid Courses
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