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What do businesses need to do regarding First Aid?
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 (amended in 2013) set out the essential aspects of first aid that employers have to address. The main regulation is the following:
“An employer shall provide, or ensure that there are provided, such equipment and facilities as are adequate and appropriate in the circumstances for enabling first aid to be rendered to his employees if they are injured or become ill at work.”
The first thing an employer needs to do is to assess the needs of the business in terms of first aid provision. This means assessing risks and hazards that could lead to injury or ill health. For more information on needs assessment you can read our detailed article.
Once the assessment is carried out, the employer must make the appropriate first aid arrangements.
As a minimum, a low risk business – such as an office – should have a stocked first aid kit and an appointed person to take charge of first aid, as well as some information about the arrangements accessible by all employees. An appointed person does not require any formal training and is in charge of looking after first aid equipment and calling emergency services when needed. An appointed person is not a first aider and should never attempt any first aid he or she is not trained to deliver. An appointed person should be present at all times when the business operates.
A business with a higher level of risk may consider having formally trained first aiders. Typically, first aiders will hold a First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificate, but an employer can also decide to get additional training for first aiders operating in businesses with specific risks (i.e. chemicals).
The needs assessment should also indicate what equipment and materials are required. This will vary for each business and should be tailored to the specific activities and risks of the business. For businesses in large premises or where a high level of risk is present, a first aid room may need to be provided. It should be easily accessible and supervised by a designated person. Information about first aiders should be available in the first aid room and in the premises.
Under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), employers are legally required to report certain incidents. This allows the enforcing authorities to target their work and provide advice about how to avoid work-related deaths, injuries and ill health.
The reportable incidents include:
Work-related serious injuries (listed as reportable according to legislation)
Diagnosed case of industrial diseases (occupational diseases)
Dangerous Occurrences (incidents with potential to cause harm)
Some employers will find it beneficial to hold accident records as they can help identify patterns and improve the risk assessment. First aid arrangements can then be modified accordingly. If a business employs more than 10 people, and in some specific cases (mine, quarry, factory), the employer has to keep an accident book.
To comply with Health & Safety regulations regarding first aid, a business should:
Assess risks and hazards
Decide on appropriate first aid arrangements
Minimum: appointed person + first aid kit + information
Trained first aiders (FAW, EFAW or additional training)
Additional equipment and facilities
Report any incident according to RIDDOR or keep records for internal use
Review needs assessment regularly or in case of operational change
There is no requirement for businesses to assess their first aid needs in writing. However, employers could find useful to keep written records as these could demonstrate how the business decided on the level of first aid provision (to a safety representative or local authority representative for example).
Employers are best placed to assess their first aid needs as they understand the nature of the business and the potential hazards and risks. There are a few things to be considered when assessing the business’ needs:
1. The nature of the work
By identifying the potential risks and hazards found in the workplace, employers can list the possible cause of accidents and thus determine the type, quantity and location of first aid equipment and personnel needed. Some examples of hazards include chemicals, machinery, manual handling, work at height and slips and trips hazards.
2. The workforce and its history
Knowing the age profile of the workforce can help employers identify potential risks such as heart and other underlying conditions. Some workers such as trainees or pregnant women can have special needs that may need to be addressed. Any information about known conditions as well as past accidents and incidents should also be used when assessing first aid needs and can help determine the location of equipment or specific training of first aiders.
3. Organisation size
In general, the larger the premises (or the larger the workforce) the greater the first aid arrangements that are required. But employers should also consider small groups performing a high risk task and manage first aid provisions accordingly. Likewise, if the business has several buildings or several floors in the same building, the employers may want to consider providing appropriate first aid equipment and facilities for each building or each floor.
4. Distribution of the workforce and work patterns
The distribution of the workforce is an important factor to consider when assessing the business’ first aid needs. If workers travel a lot or are working in a remote location, the employer could make specific arrangements for them, such as personal first aid kits. Sufficient first aid provision must always be available when employees are at work; thus the employer should also consider work shifts, holidays and other planned absences when making first aid arrangements.
5. Remoteness from emergency services
If the business is in a remote location or far from emergency medical services, the employer can make special arrangements such as appropriate transport or inform the closest emergency services of the business location and any specific hazards.
It is very important for a business to carry out a thorough and detailed first aid needs assessment as any misevaluation of the needs could lead to inadequate first aid arrangements. We have created an online calculator to provide guidance for first aid needs assessment. Do not hesitate to use it to get tailored recommendations.
What impact can first aiders have on health and safety at work?
Having trained first aiders can impact a business positively, as they might help spread positive health and safety messages by adopting safe working practice and influencing others by doing so.
First aiders involved in health and safety management are more encouraged to raise concerns which then can be used to improve working conditions and reduce risks of accident and ill health.
Concerns from employees can help identify potential risks that the employer might not have previously accounted for, as employees are better placed to know in details what their jobs involve. Holding accidents reports can also help businesses identify trends in accidents and adjust their first aid arrangements accordingly.
Surveys show that workplaces where employees feel they have a say on health & safety matters have lower accident rates (14%) than workplaces where employees do not get involved (26%). Stronger involvement also means businesses can be able to control risks more effectively.
Employees influence health and safety at work through their own actions. Being a trained first aider or being involved in decision making regarding health and safety can help build a more positive climate, control risks, lower accident rates and raise awareness of risks.
How can businesses involve employees?
Depending if employees are members of a recognised trade union or not, employers can consult one or both of the following:
- Health and safety representatives appointed by recognised trade unions
- Workforce, directly or through elected representatives
Consulting employees means giving them information and time to discuss and advise on health and safety matters; as well as taking their opinion into account when making a decision. Employers should also make any information about health and safety readily available to employees.
Some employees might be reluctant to become a representative, but it is important that the employer encourages them to do so, as everyone gains from such measures. To create stronger commitment, employers could start by explaining the benefits of co-operation in health and safety management, ensure a safe environment for employees to raise concerns, or clearly state their intention to discuss health and safety matters and allowing employees to have a say in the decision-making process. Employees taking part in a health and safety consultation cannot be penalised for doing so.