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First aid in your business: What you need to know

Research from St John Ambulance has shown that 60% of people wouldn't know what to do in an emergency situation – would you or your employees? In this article we take a look at the importance of first aid training in the workplace and your responsibilities as an employer to provide it.

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Employer's first aid responsibilities

Under the Health and Safety Regulations 1981, an employer is required to provide equipment and facilities that are adequate and appropriate for enabling first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or become ill at work.

The five most common scenarios when people need first aid include:

  • severe bleeding
  • choking
  • heart attack
  • unconscious but breathing
  • unconscious and not breathing.

There is no fixed level for the provision of first aid but each employer must assess what facilities and personnel are appropriate.

You must consider:

  • workplace hazards and risks
  • the size of the organisation
  • the organisation's history of accidents
  • the nature and distribution of the workforce the remoteness of the site from emergency medical services
  • the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
  • employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites
  • annual leave and other absences of first aiders and appointed persons.

First aid training

An employer should also provide a suitable number of persons able to give first aid to employees, who have undergone proper training and have such qualifications approved by the Health and Safety Executive, along with additional training as may be appropriate in the circumstances of that case, including annual refresher training.

From 1 October 2013, businesses have more choice when choosing first aid training providers as they don’t need to be from a list approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Read more about choosing a first aid trainer on the HSE website.

First aid containers

There should be at least one suitably stocked container on every work site and it should be preferably located close to hand washing facilities.

There is no mandatory list of items that should be included in a first aid container but a normal stock of first aid items (in an environment with no special risk) should include:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid individually wrapped sterile adhesive dressings (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (e.g. detectable blue plasters for food handlers)
  • sterile eye pads
  • individually wrapped triangular bandages
  • safety pins
  • individually wrapped sterile unmedicated wound dressings – medium (12cm x 12cm) and large (18cm x 18cm) disposable gloves.

NB: Tablets and/or other medications should not be kept in the container. A white cross on a green background should identify all first aid containers.

The contents of first aid containers should be examined frequently and should be restocked as soon as possible after use.

Keeping records

Employers should provide first aiders and appointed persons with a book in which to record incidents which require their attendance.

The information to be entered should be:

  • date, time and place of incident
  • name and job of the injured or ill person
  • details of the injury, illness and what first aid was given what happened to the person immediately afterwards (for example went home, went back to work, went to hospital) name and signature of the first aider or person dealing with the incident.

Read more about accident reporting

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