Whether you’re an employer, manager or even a self-employed sole trader the Health and Safety (First Aid) regulations 1981 apply to you. If you don’t employ a specialist health and safety advisor it can seem a bit daunting but it’s really not too scary to get to grips with. So what do you have to do to comply with the regulations?

Make provision for first aid

Regulation 3 states that you have to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment and facilities for staff members who may become ill or injured at work. This includes ensuring that you have sufficient suitable people to provide first aid to your staff.

But what does ‘adequate and appropriate’ mean, and how do you decide how many first aiders you need and if they are ‘suitable’? The answer is… it depends! What the florist on the high street needs will be different from the butcher next door, the large factory down the road or the self-employed tree surgeon on the edge of town. The solution lies in the First Aid Needs Assessment.

 “An employer should make an assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances (hazards and risks) of each workplace.”

Each business should therefore make their own individual assessment of what they need to keep their staff safe and deal with any incidents. This assessment is then used to determine how many first aiders you need, what level of training they should have, what first aid equipment you require and where it should be located.


Needs Assessments

The First Aid Needs Assessment is your friend as an employer or business person. This tool gives you the flexibility to ensure that the provision you make is tailored to what you need, rather than an arbitrary set of rules that have no relevance to your business.

Things to be considered when you make your assessment include:

■ the nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks;

■ the nature of the workforce;

■ the organisation’s history of accidents;

■ the size of the organisation;

■ the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers;

■ work patterns;

■ the distribution of the workforce;

■ the remoteness of the site from emergency medical services;

■ employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites;

■ annual leave and other absences of first-aiders and appointed persons;

■ first-aid provision for non-employees.

For small, low risk workplaces, the minimum level of provision is an ‘appointed person’ and a suitably stocked first aid box. The appointed person’s role is to ensure that the first aid box is kept stocked with in-date equipment and to call the emergency services if needed.

You might need to consider providing trained first aiders and more first aid equipment if your needs assessment identifies particular hazards such as machinery and chemicals, if you have a large number of employees on site, if your accident record suggests patterns of incidents that you are likely to need to deal with again and if any employees have particular health conditions that may need support. More details of each of these issues can be found in the regulations (link).

This table, from the regulations, offers suggestions for how the first aid needs of different workplaces might be met, with helpful case studies here.

Although the assessment doesn’t have to be written down, it’s a very good idea to have a written document, as this provides evidence that you have considered the needs of your workforce in the provision you make.

What next?

So, once you’ve identified the first aid needs in your business, what are the next steps? How do you ensure that your first aiders are adequately trained and what should you have in your first aid kits? Check out the next in our series of blog posts for the answers.