Workplace first aid: Do you know your obligations? (Guest Post/Blog)

This is a Guest Post/Blog written by Matt Hornsby

(health & safety expert & writer for

Accidents can and do happen at work, so if you’re responsible for a business, it’s important to be prepared for mishaps big and small. In fact, it’s not just important – it’s essential in helping you to meet your legal obligations. Should there be an injury or sudden illness in your workplace, you must provide first aid equipment (and people with the skills to use it) in order that a casualty can receive immediate attention.

Under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) First Aid Regulations 1981, employers must provide “adequate and appropriate equipment”, along with the facilities and trained staff to administer the first aid. What’s deemed adequate and appropriate depends on the circumstances in the workplace, but the regulations apply not only to large and medium-sized businesses, but also smaller concerns and even the self-employed.

In cases where staff have been put at significant risk due to a lack of provisions, or there has been a disregard for standards, the HSE can prosecute. So with much at stake, it’s essential that you understand what you need to do, especially if you’ve recently started your business or you’re aware that your first aid provisions are not up to scratch.

What size of first aid kit do you need?
The type of kit you need depends on how hazardous your type of workplace is considered to be and the number of staff employed. You’re in the low risk category if you work somewhere like an office, shop or library. Workplaces with less than 25 staff need a small first aid kit, those with 25 to 100 staff a medium kit and those with more than 100 should have one large kit per 100 employees. On the other hand, if you work in an environment considered to be more hazardous, such as construction, industry, food processing or chemical manufacture, you’ll need one large kit per 25 employees. However, there’s no hard and fast rule – each workplace needs to assess its own level of risk.

What should be in the first aid kit?
The standards are changing in 2011 when it comes to what should be in a workplace first aid kit. Companies have a six month transition period from June 30th to upgrade their kits. The changes include more disposable nitrile gloves, and the introduction of smaller dressings for finger injuries, adhesive tape to replace pins, gel burn dressings, clothing cutters, eyewash, resuscitation face shields and foil survival blankets. However, the number of triangular badges have been decreased as they are no longer used for the immobilisation of limb injuries.

No one can accurately predict what will happen in their workplace tomorrow. But getting the right size of first aid kit with the right equipment should ensure you’re prepared for any accidents – and are covered legally too.