First aid is the immediate care for those who have suddenly fallen ill or endured an injury whilst at work. If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure first aid is available to all employees in the workplace. First aid training must be conducted in accordance with the hazards and risks present in your workplace, as this will determine the type of equipment and training that is needed. If an employer fails to comply with the UK's Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, there could be serious repercussions administered by the UK Health and Safety Executive. As an employer and employee in the workplace, it is important to understand the legal requirements for first aid at work.
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 requires employers in the UK to ensure that there is adequate equipment, facilities and personnel to conduct first aid for their employees, in case an employee falls ill or has an injury in the workplace.
Organisations across the UK have different workplaces and needs. Some workplaces will be significantly more dangerous than others due to the nature of their work. It is important to ensure that you apply the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 specifically to your organisation's workplace.
These regulations apply to all UK workplaces, including organisations with less than five employees and those who are self-employed.
These regulations do not specifically require employers to offer first aid to the public. However, it is good practice to include non-employees in the first aid assessment, as this can maintain safety in your workplace at all times.
Employers must conduct a first aid assessment of the workplace. This involves considering the following:
- What should be included in your workplace first aid kit?
- What equipment should you have in the workplace to conduct first aid?
- Is it necessary for you to have a first aid room available for employees?
- How many trained first aiders do you need in the workplace?
Then, consider how first aid can be applied specifically to your workplace, by taking into consideration the following:
- The size of your organisation. The larger your organisation, the more first aiders you will need.
- The nature of your work. If you are a construction company, with employees working at height, this potentially means that your employees are more exposed to injury.
- Do any of your employees have medical conditions? If so, your first aiders will need to know how to deal with these specific medical conditions.
- Do any of your employees travel whilst at work?
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
These regulations require employers to report work-related injuries and incidents to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This information must be stored in line with the Data Protection Act.
The UK HSE is responsible for regulating health and safety law across organisations in the UK. The HSE will prosecute an employer if they have allowed significant risk to occur in the workplace and demonstrated a disregard for health and safety standards.
The HSE offer support and guidance to encourage UK organisations to maintain health and safety standards in the workplace. The HSE provide a syllabus for content which should be included in a first aid at work course, as well as a due diligence checklists for employers to evaluate their first aid training provider.
However, if organisations fail to comply with the UK's Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, the HSE have the authority to take action. The HSE can investigate an organisation if they suspect they are not complying with the appropriate first aid legislation. Following this investigation, the organisation will receive an improvement notice, regarding ways to improve health and safety standards, or a prohibition notice, which states that work should stop immediately.
Following an organisation's failure to rectify the health and safety breach, prosecution could take place. Prosecution can result in hefty fines and the tarnished reputation of the organisation.
In 2016/17, it was discovered that 554 companies across the UK were guilty of not complying with UK health and safety regulations thoroughly, and consequently a total of £69.9 million was paid in fines. These statistics are frightening, and therefore it is clear that compliance with UK health and safety standards needs to improve.
To ensure safety is maintained in the workplace and to avoid crippling fines and prosecution from the HSE, knowledge and training of the legal requirements for first aid in the workplace is of the utmost importance.