This guide outlines what employers are required to do regarding first aid in the workplace as outlined in the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.
Being prepared to carry out first aid to deal with injuries in the workplace is vitally important. Without it, a small incident could rapidly develop into a serious situation and put people’s lives at risk. Employer responsibilities for first aid and providing medical attention are covered by the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.
The regulations are important for ensuring organisations establish an appropriate level of first aid provision and that anyone injured or taken ill at work receives adequate provision, and there are emergency arrangements in place.
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Employers’ first aid responsibilities
The Regulations require employers to:
- Ensure that employees who are injured or taken ill in the workplace receive immediate medical attention;
- Conduct a first aid assessment of the workplace;
- Provide first aid training to employees;
- Provide adequate first aid facilities, equipment and personnel.
The rules apply to all organisations, but the minimum measures required vary. The Health and Safety Executive advises that, as a minimum, a small office with low health and safety risks needs a first aid box and an appointed person to look after first aid arrangements such as calling an ambulance, whereas a workplace with bigger health and safety risks is likely to need one or more trained first-aiders.
Learn more about the main responsibilities of an appointed person with our expert guide.
Employers are not legally required to provide first aid to non-employees such as members of the public, but the Health and Safety Executive says that it “strongly recommends you include non-employees in your first-aid needs assessment and make provision for them”.
First-aid needs assessments
Employers should carry out a first-aid needs assessment to understand the level of first-aid provision required at a workplace. The assessment should cover the particular circumstances of the workplace and the health and safety risks.
Areas to consider include:
- The type of work the organisation does.
- The hazards and risks in the workplace.
- The size and work patterns of the workforce.
- The distribution of the workplace.
- Previous accidents at the organisation.
- Holidays and other absences of first-aiders and appointed persons.
- The needs of remote, travelling and lone workers.
- Employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites.
- The distance of the organisation from emergency medical services.
- First-aid provision for non-employees.
The Health and Safety Executive provides a useful checklist for first-aid needs assessments and assessment case studies for different types of organisations.
You should use your first-aid needs assessment to determine if first-aiders are necessary or if an appointed person might be adequate for your organisation, a specific location or the type of work being undertaken. That is the minimum required under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.
First-aiders must have received training, such as our First Aid Appointed Person course that is appropriate to the workplace needs identified by the first-aid needs assessment. This includes:
- First aid appointed person (FAAP).
- First aid at work (FAW).
- Emergency first aid at work (EFAW).
- Other appropriate first aid training such as a slips, trips and falls training course.
It is recommended that first-aiders have annual refresher training.
There are no set rules on exactly how many trained first-aiders or appointed persons an organisation should have, but the Health and Safety Executive recommends numbers based on the environment and hazard level:
Low-hazard workplaces such as offices, shops and libraries:
- Fewer than 25 employees: At least one appointed person.
- 25–50 employees: At least one first-aider trained in EFAW.
- More than 50 employees: At least one first-aider trained in FAW for every 100 employed (or part thereof).
Higher-hazard workplaces including light engineering and assembly work, food processing, warehousing, extensive work with dangerous machinery and construction:
- Fewer than 5 employees: At least one appointed person.
- 5–50 employees: At least one first-aider trained in EFAW or FAW depending on the type of injuries that might occur.
- More than 50 employees: At least one first-aider trained in FAW for every 50 employed (or part thereof).
Appointed persons benefit from some awareness training. Their role includes looking after first-aid equipment and calling the emergency services if required. They can also provide emergency cover if a first-aider is absent due to unforeseen circumstances. If an organisation has enough trained first-aiders, an appointed person is unnecessary.
First aid equipment and facilities
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require that employers provide “adequate and appropriate” first-aid equipment and facilities. A first-aid needs assessment will decide how much and what equipment and facilities you need to provide, but at minimum, you should have a first-aid kit with suitable contents. For an organisation with low-risk work activities, the Health and Safety Executive recommends a kit should include the following as a minimum:
- A leaflet with general guidance on first aid;
- 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters of assorted sizes;
- Two sterile eye pad;
- 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.
All organisations must inform employees of first-aid arrangements. It is usually sufficient to display notices outlining who and where the first-aiders or appointed persons are, and where the first-aid box is. You should make special arrangements for employees who have reading or language difficulties.
Organisations in high-risk industries such as manufacturing, constructions and food processing may need more equipment and facilities. An example is a first-aid room used exclusively to provide first aid.
First-aid rooms must be big enough for an examination or medical couch, or provide a place where first aid can be administered. They should also have washable surfaces, hot and cold running water and adequate heating, lighting and ventilation. Rooms should be located as near as possible to a point of access for transport to hospital and have a notice on the door with the names, locations and, if appropriate, contact details for first-aiders.
First aid training
All first-aiders must be formally trained with a recognised qualification and should be trained in first aid at work (FAW), emergency first aid at work (EFAW) or other appropriate first-aid training.
EFAW allows first-aiders to give emergency first aid to someone who is injured or becomes ill, while FAW provides the same skills as well as enabling the first-aider to deliver first aid in response to specific injuries and illnesses.
It can also be useful to provide employees with training on preventing accidents from happening in the first place. The Praxis42 slips, trips and falls training course helps raise employee awareness of the common causes of these types of accidents and the actions they can take to prevent them from occurring to themselves and others.
Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981 – employee responsibilities
Although employees do not have specific duties for first aid in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive recommends informing their employer of any health issues that should be considered during a first-aid needs assessment.
If an employee needs to take medication, such as a spray for angina or an inhaler for asthma, employers can ensure first-aiders receive relevant training should the employee become ill at work.
Responsibilities of the self-employed
Self-employed individuals are also required to have “adequate and appropriate” equipment to provide first aid for themselves while at work. They should carry out an assessment of the hazards and risks in their workplace to establish an appropriate level of equipment. For example, those who regularly drive long distances may need a first aid kit in their vehicle.
Although the self-employed are responsible for their first aid provision, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that self-employed people who work in shared premises with others make arrangements for one employer to take responsibility for first aid for all workers on the premises. There should be a written agreement for such an arrangement.
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