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Last updated: 08.11.17

First Aid for Small Businesses

Accidents and medical emergencies can happen in any business, whether there are lots of obvious hazards such as machinery or cutting equipment, or it’s just an office. Workplace injuries are often minor, which means that a good first aid setup should be able to deal with them quickly and efficiently. Incidents can also be severe, which means the right first aid response could be life-saving. In this article, we’re going to look at what small businesses need to do to make sure they’ve thought properly about first aid, and that they’re sticking to the law.

Benefits of First Aid Planning

Good first aid planning can often be overlooked by small businesses, with so many other day-to-day pressures and concerns taking up time. It’s estimated by the British Red Cross that three quarters of businesses don’t even know where their first aid kit is. However, there are a variety of benefits that come with good first aid planning, such as:

  • A better response when an accident happens in the workplace is likely to reassure employees that management has their wellbeing in mind
  • Effective first aid reduces the impact of injuries, meaning employees are better looked after, and are likely to spend less time either off sick or unable to do their job properly
  • There are legal responsibilities that you must adhere to

Regulations & Responsibilities

The UK Government does set out some laws that must be followed when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, and naturally this will extend to first aid. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 are the main component of this. They state that employers, including small businesses, must make appropriate provisions for dealing with first aid situations.

What this entails will naturally vary significantly between businesses. As a smaller business, you might not be required to have a trained first aider on hand at all times, but if your workplace is particularly hazardous, then this is likely to be required. Similarly, the contents of a first aid box in an office may only need to be able to deal with minor staff kitchen accidents, whereas a warehouse first aid kit might need the materials to treat significant cuts or other injuries. If in doubt, consult government guidance on why your premises requires. We’ll cover some of the basics of a first aid kit later. Failure to take these precautions in the eyes of the law could result in a prosecution, which is why it’s important to ensure that your small business has at least the minimum level of considerations.

First Aid Assessments

Part of being able to meet your responsibilities as an employer is in carrying out a first aid assessment. This will help you to work out exactly what you need to do. Go round your place of work and try to identify all possible risks to employees. Then determine the severity of them, who they could affect and when, and how they could be dealt with in a first aid situation. This will help you work out if you need any special first aid provision, what you need in your first aid kit, and whether you need trained members of staff.

As part of the assessment and its follow-up documentation, you may also need to detail what happens in the event of an incident. How is a first aider called to the scene? Who should call for an ambulance if necessary? How should workplace injuries be recorded?

Tip: Consult the Health & Safety Executive’s documentation to help you undertake a first aid needs assessment.


It is very important to note that in order to become a qualified first aider, you or your employees must attend an accredited course that specifically gives you this qualification. Anyone can receive basic first aid training, and give first aid, but this does not make them a qualified first aider in the eyes of the law unless the correct level of training has been undertaken and passed.

However, dealing with first aid situations can be difficult for those who have no training at all, which is why it’s very useful to have at least some members of staff with a degree of knowledge, even if they are not qualified first aiders. While most incidents are minor, sometimes they can be life threatening, and a member of staff who understands how to put someone into the recovery position for example, can be the difference.

Virtual College offers a course on the First Aid Primary Survey, which is designed to help people understand how to approach an accident. Click here to find out more about what the course involves and how it may be beneficial to your business.

First Aid Kits

As previously mentioned, first aid kits can vary quite considerably from business to business, but a standard first aid kit that would suit most environments should contain the following, as suggested by the HSE:

  • Leaflet providing general advice on first aid
  • Individually wrapped sterile plasters in various sizes
  • Sterile eye pads
  • Individually wrapped sterile triangular bandages
  • Safety pins
  • Both large and medium-sized sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings
  • Disposable gloves

For more information about health and safety in the workplace, visit our Health & Safety courses page here.

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