First aid kits should be present in all places of work, whether you have a very small office with just a few people working in it, or you’re in a warehouse with many identified hazards. All employers are required by law to keep their employees safe while they’re on the job, and they can be hugely useful in the event of an accident.
Having a good first aid plan is part of keeping employees safe whilst they’re at work. While there are no set rules for what a first aid kit should contain, there are guidelines available, and even international standards.
In this article, we go through all of the most important items that should be found in any and all first aid kits at work, as suggested by the Health and Safety Executive. We also explain how to use a first aid kit, what type of first aid kit your office needs, and where you can buy one.
Any workplace can be the setting of accidents and injuries no matter what kinds of work take place there. Having an office first aid kit means that you can treat minor injuries on site and help employees recover as quickly as possible. The items in a first aid kit can also relieve pain and discomfort, ensuring that employees can continue with their work without any unnecessary distractions.
The items in an office first aid kit can also be used to keep more serious injuries from worsening until proper medical attention can be given. Using things like bandages and dressings can prevent complications that may have caused serious, lasting damage, so a first aid kit can be essential in keeping employees safe from long-term harm.
All workplaces are also required to have “adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel” to keep employees safe when they are at work according to The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, which includes work first aid kits. Failing to provide a first aid kit could not only endanger your employees but also put you at risk of legal action.
An office first aid kit only needs basic first aid supplies in it, as it’s a relatively safe workplace where accidents and injuries are going to be fairly rare. Here are the most important things that your first aid kit should contain.
It’s a very good idea to keep a basic informational leaflet with your first aid kit that covers how to use most of the contents and what to do in certain common first aid situations. These types of leaflets are readily available and can be extremely useful, particularly for those members of staff that need to use the kit but who are not trained first aiders. This is fairly common for first aid in the office, particularly in smaller workplaces.
Probably the most well-known part of any first aid kit, plasters are great for dealing with cuts and grazes that can arise from even the most seemingly harmless workplace. They help to protect the wound and allow the healing process to start.
It’s a good idea to have a few different plasters of varying sizes and shapes in your office first aid kit. This will help with cuts in awkward areas such as on the hands, and different-sized injuries.
There are also waterproof and brightly coloured plaster variants available for certain industries such as when working with food. Remember that some people can be allergic to things like latex which is used in some plasters, so choosing hypoallergenic dressings is a good idea.
Eye pads fulfil many of the same jobs as a plaster would, but are specifically for the eye. Following an injury to the eye, it’s important that contaminants are kept out, and that the wound can start healing uninterrupted. Eye pads are cushioned and help to protect the eye while remaining comfortable, and are usually absorbent too, which can be useful if the eye is weeping.
Triangular bandages are a very useful addition to a first aid kit and are designed to support the arm when the arm, hand, wrist, shoulder or elbow is damaged in some way. This may be because of a fracture or dislocation, or even a nasty cut. Usually you will need to keep some safety pins with the bandage in your first aid kit, as these are used to ensure that the sling is positioned correctly for the person and injury.
For wounds that are more significant than a plaster can deal with, wound dressings will need to be used, which is why any good small first aid kit will contain some of these in a variety of sizes. There are lots of different types of dressing on the market for different specific needs, so if you work somewhere where there are specific hazards, you may need more specialised dressings.
For most office environments however, you should simply look for standard adhesive dressings that are designed to absorb blood and any other fluid coming from the wound, as well as form a protective barrier.
Wet wipes can be very useful for gently cleaning wounds to make sure that there are no contaminants in them. They can also be used for wiping away dried blood and anything else that may remain on the skin when you’re cleaning up around a wound in preparation for applying a dressing. Remember that they must be sterile in order to guard against infection.
Finally, disposable gloves should be part of all workplace first aid kits, as they are essential to use when treating anything other than a very small cut. They protect the wound from contaminants that may cause it to become infected, and they also help to ensure that the first aider does not come into contact with blood or other fluid.
Be aware that many disposable gloves are latex, and that some people have severe latex allergies. As a result, there are COSHH guidelines that suggest avoiding latex if possible.
A first aid kit can be used in situations where someone in the office sustains a minor injury. Most common examples include cuts and scrapes, but you can also use a first aid kit in cases where someone strains a muscle, breaks a bone, comes into contact with a harmful substance or is suffering from significant bleeding.
Most of the items in a first aid kit will be very easy to use even without any first aid training, and it is quite straightforward to apply a plaster, clean a wound with a wipe or fasten a bandage over a dressing. However, all first aid kits should have an instructional leaflet in them explaining how to use each of the different items, so if you’re at all unsure you can consult this.
The size of the workplace first aid kit that you need really depends on the size of your office and the number of employees that work there.
As general guidance, a small first aid kit will contain several of each essential item and can be used for offices with up to 25 people. A medium first aid kit can be used for workplaces with 25-100 employees, and a large first aid kit should be purchased for offices that have more than 100 staff.
You should also note that there needs to be a first aid kit easily accessible to every employee no matter where they are in an office. So whilst one first aid kit might contain enough items for a small team of 20 people, if the office space itself is spread across two floors then you might want to have a first aid kit on each floor. This makes it easier for employees to access the first aid equipment in an emergency and reduces the time between an injury and treatment.
You can buy a first aid kit for office use from a range of different retailers. Several health and safety training providers like St John’s Ambulance sell first aid kits specifically for workplaces, but you can also get small first aid kits from pharmacies that will contain everything you need for an office.
You can buy supplies for a first aid kit through official first aid stockists, or again can purchase things like plasters, badges and sterile wipes from pharmacies and other stores that sell basic medical products.
You shouldn’t keep anything in a first aid kit that is useless in a medical situation, as this will just take up space and potentially make it harder for a first aider to find a useful item in a hurry.
It is also recommended that medication and tablets are kept separately from a first aid kit, especially if they belong to a specific member of the team. This is because it is easier to access this kind of medication if it is already with the person that needs it, so if someone needs an adrenaline auto-injector or an inhaler, you don’t have to find the first aid kit to retrieve it.
General advice is that an office first aid kit should be checked every three months to make sure that it contains all of the necessary items and that these things in a first aid kit are all still in date and safe to use. A first aid kit also needs to be checked after it has been used so that you know which items need to be replaced.
The first aid appointed person in the workplace is in charge of restocking the office first aid kit and ensuring that any items are replaced as soon as possible. An appointed person doesn’t need to be a qualified first aider, but they should be made aware of any incidents when the first aid kit is used and regularly check all office first aid kits so that supplies don’t diminish.
Purchasing and filling an office first aid kit is a very straightforward job, so whether you’re an employer or your workplace’s first aid appointed person, checking and replenishing the contents of a first aid kit is easy. As long as you establish a process for checking your supplies and recording any items that are used in first aid, you should ensure that employees always have access to any of the essentials for a first aid kit that they need.
If you’re looking for more information about first aid requirements in the workplace, we offer an online ‘First Aid at Work Course’ suitable for anyone looking for basic first aid training and advice on how to use a first aid kit.