First aid in the workplace: what you need to know

Health & Safety Knowledge Base | Emergency Response Training

Posted by: Morgan Rennie Published: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 Last Reviewed: Fri, 28 Aug 2020
First aid in the workplace: what you need to know

In this article:

  • What first aid is
  • What first aid training covers
  • Why first aid is important
  • First aid risk assessments
  • Contents of a first aid kit

What is first aid?

First aid is the immediate medical care given to an injured or ill individual until they are well or until full medical treatment arrives. The aim of first aid is to care for the injury or illness of an individual, with the intention to put them at ease and to prevent any further discomfort.

In your workplace there should be designated individuals who are responsible for administering first aid. They will be qualified first aiders, who have taken a first aid training course which is specific to their type of workplace environment. As a first aider you need to be able to assess a range of different situations. If someone falls and cuts their arm, it's your responsibility to identify the extent of the injury, and to subsequently clean, bandage and tend to the injury.

If the injury or illness is beyond your capability, first aid can be used as an immediate measure until further medical assistance arrives, such as an ambulance.

What does first aid training cover?

First aid can involve some of the following actions:

  • Tending to cuts
  • Helping with minor headaches/flu symptoms
  • Administering CPR
  • Bandaging a wound
  • Applying a sling to a fractured bone

First aid training will teach you the following skills:

  • Life-saving techniques, such as the Heimlich manoeuvre and CPR.
  • How to deal with unconsciousness
  • How to control bleeding
  • How to control trauma
  • How to use essential first aid equipment, such as a defibrillator.
  • How to treat severe and minor injuries
  • To identify and care for different illnesses

Why is first aid important?

First aid in the workplace is of the utmost importance as it helps to maintain the safety of all employees if they fall ill or encounter a sudden injury whilst at work. 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 in the workplace. If your organisation does not establish a thorough first aid procedure, including essential equipment and designated first aiders, your organisation will be subject to investigation by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Therefore, knowledge and training of first aid in the workplace will ensure that all employees are part of a safe environment, and your organisation is compliant with UK legislation.

Knowledge and training of first aid in the workplace is essential as it demonstrates the employer's care and commitment to protecting employees. If a medical emergency does occur, assistance will be available and the safety of everyone in the workplace will be maintained as far as possible.

First aid in the workplace: what you need to know

First aid risk assessments

You must conduct a first aid assessment of your workplace. This assessment analyses the particular risks and hazards which are present in your workplace, and subsequently this will help you to decide what types of first aid equipment you will need to incorporate into the workplace.

When conducting a first aid assessment of your workplace, you should consider the following questions:

  • How large is your organisation and how will this affect the number of trained first aiders you will need?
  • What is the nature of your work and will this affect the type of first aid equipment you will need in the workplace?
  • Are there any employees who have particular medical conditions which need to be accounted for in first aid training?
  • Will it be necessary to have a first aid room in the workplace?
  • Are there any particular areas of the workplace which are significantly more hazardous than others?

Following the completion of your first aid assessment, you will need to delegate an appropriate number of first aid representatives. This means that if a medical emergency occurs, there are designated first aiders in the workplace who are trained and equipped to deal with the situation.

What should be in a first aid kit?

The UK Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 makes it a legal requirement for employers to provide adequate equipment, facilities and personnel to conduct first aid in the workplace. Therefore, it is essential to know what should be included in your first aid kit.

Low-risk workplace first aid kit:

If your workplace is deemed to be low-risk, your first aid kit should cover equipment for treating minor illness and injuries including cuts, grazes and minor burns. A low-risk workplace first aid kit should include:

  • Plasters
  • Small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings
  • Sterile eye dressings
  • Triangular bandages
  • Safety Pins
  • Disposable sterile gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
  • Adhesive tape
  • Burn dressings
  • Thermometer
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Painkillers

High-risk workplace first aid kit:

If your workplace is higher risk and exposes workers to situations which could lead to more significant injury, your first aid kit should include:

  • Burn gel dressing
  • Hydrogel dressings
  • Burn treatment sachets
  • Moist wipes
  • Disposable gloves
  • Foil blanket
  • Bandage rolls
  • Sterile dressings
  • Sterile eye pads
  • Eye baths
  • Triangular bandages
  • Safety pins

First aid room:

A designated first aid room in the workplace could include:

  • First aid couch
  • Privacy screen
  • Dressing trolley
  • Defibrillator: It isn't a UK legal requirement to have a defibrillator on-site, but defibrillators can be useful and help to save lives.

Ideally, your first aid kit should be located in an area that is easily accessible, visible, and has a sign attached to highlight the first aid kit. It is important to maintain an effective first aid kit. The expiration dates can expire on certain antiseptic creams and painkillers; it is important to review the contents of the first aid box regularly to ensure it is up to date.

It is important to designate the responsibility of maintaining the first aid kit to an individual in the workplace so that it remains a health and safety priority. The designated employee renewing the first aid kit should be trained in first aid, and therefore will know how to use the contents of the kit effectively.

If an employee encounters an injury or a medical emergency does occur, it is important for a first aider to be present and to have the necessary equipment on hand to ensure safety is maintained. Knowledge and training of the importance of first aid in the workplace is essential.

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