Accidents and medical emergencies can happen in any business, whether the environment has lots of obvious hazards like machinery or cutting equipment, or it’s just an office. Workplace injuries are often minor however, which means that businesses with good first aid facilities should be able to deal with them quickly and efficiently.
As with most elements of workplace health and safety, the effectiveness of a first aid response to an incident is only as good as the policy and procedure that has been put in place beforehand. If you feel as an employer that you need to know more about first aid policy and procedure at work, in this article we’re going to look at first aid requirements at work regarding having a first aid policy and procedures in place.
A workplace first aid policy is an official document that contains all of the information relating to how first aid is approached in a business. It often includes a statement from an employer acknowledging the responsibilities they have to keep their employees safe and then explaining the steps that have been taken and procedures in place that meet these first aid requirements.
There’s no official structure for a first aid policy, but it is strongly recommended that you have one in a business, both to demonstrate health and safety compliance and provide employees with a resource for understanding how to approach first aid at work. It includes information on workplace first aiders, first aid training, any official first aid procedures and a record of the steps that have been taken to provide first aid provisions.
The UK Government does set out some laws that must be followed when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, some of which extend to first aid. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 are the most important bits of legislation that you need to be aware of in this regard.
These first aid at work requirements place a responsibility on employers to provide adequate resources, including equipment, personnel, facilities and training to those who are injured while at work.
All employers need to be aware of these first aid legal requirements, and there is theoretically no minimum business size for this law to apply. No matter the size of your team, if you are responsible for any number of employees then you have a duty to keep them safe at work.
However, these health and safety first aid regulations do not go into explicit detail about what is specifically appropriate for your workplace, which means that employers will need to determine how they can best meet their legal obligations. Smaller businesses might not be required to have a trained first aider on hand at all times, whilst hazardous workplaces are likely to need one. 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
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does provide plenty of guidance in this regard, so if you’re in doubt about what you need to include in your policy, you’re advised to follow government guidance.
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 business at least has a first aid policy and a basic set of procedures for first aid incidents.
Good first aid planning can often be overlooked by businesses, especially if other day-to-day pressures and concerns are taking up time.
In smaller teams in particular, having a thorough first aid policy and set of procedures might seem unnecessary. However, there are a variety of benefits that come with good first aid planning, such as:
There are three main things you’re going to need when you’re preparing a workplace first aid policy; a suitable first aid kit, someone to be responsible for health and safety, and information for employees about whatever procedures you’ve put in place. In order to do this, you need to assess the levels of risk present in your workplace and decide what kinds of first aid response might be required.
Go around 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.
Some of the things to think about will include the following:
Once you’ve carried out your risk assessment and determined what kind of first aid your workplace might need, you can implement the necessary policy and procedure. Here are some common first aid requirements that this may include.
Your first job will be to ensure that you have the right number of first aid kits and first aid facilities, in the right locations, with the right contents. 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:
It is very important to note that in order to become a qualified workplace 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.
If you have more than five employees in your business then you need at least one trained first aider in your team. The role of a first aider is not only to provide first aid treatment, but also to stay up to date on the latest first aid guidance and feed this back to their team if relevant.
In your first aid policy, you should highlight who your workplace first aider is, so that staff know who to contact if first aid is needed.
After designing official workplace first aiders, you’ll then most likely need to think about whether you need any training for yourself or other employees. 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 requiring first aid in a workplace are minor, sometimes they can be life-threatening. Having a member of staff who understands how to put someone into the recovery position, for example, can be the difference between life and death.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to offer all employees the opportunity to undertake a basic first aid training course at work, especially if you’ve identified a relatively high level of risk in the workplace. These kinds of courses can be done online or in person, and are available from a range of providers.
If you’d like to offer first aid training as part of your first aid policy, Virtual College offers an online ‘First Aid at Work: Primary Survey’ course that is ideal for giving employees an accredited introduction to first aid in a workplace.
A first aid policy is usually a written document that contains all the relevant information about first aid in a workplace. This may include official procedures for certain kinds of incidents so that staff know how to react and what to do when first aid is required.
Not all workplaces need official first aid procedures, but if you have identified particular risks in your initial assessment, you might want to create a procedure to help manage these.
To create a first aid procedure, document what needs to happen 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?
This procedure can be included on first aid notices and will give the workplace first aider and other employees instructions on what to do in an emergency. This can reduce the risk of harm and ensure that help is given as fast as possible, keeping your workplace safer.
According to guidance from HSE, every workplace should have at least one first aid kit and someone in the team appointed to be in charge of delivering first aid or calling the emergency services if required. If your workplace is a more high-risk environment however, such as a construction site, a factory with machinery and equipment, or a place containing vulnerable people, there may be more minimal legal requirements for first aid provisions that you need to meet.
All first aid at work kits should contain a general first aid guidance leaflet, sterile plasters, disposable gloves, safety pins, sterile triangular bandages, sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings and sterile eye pads. First aid kits designed for specific kinds of workplaces may contain other items, depending on the health and safety risks that are present.
Anyone can administer first aid in the workplace if required - you don’t have to be formally trained or have a qualification to do so. However, it’s strongly recommended that you only administer first aid if you know what you are doing, and it’s a good idea to leave first aid as the responsibility of a first aider if they’re around.
It’s relatively easy to put together a workplace first aid policy, especially if you work in a low-risk environment where only basic equipment and procedures are required. Whilst you may only occasionally have to deal with first aid incidents at work, it’s still very important to have a policy to clarify how you are protecting employees and give staff information on first aiders, first aid kits and first aid procedures.
If you’re responsible for a workplace first aid policy and want to find out more about first aid training, we offer an online course on the ‘First Aid Primary Survey’, which is designed to help people understand how to approach an accident.