Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981

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The Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981 place an obligation on employers to make available to their employees an ‘adequate and appropriate’ first aid provision. The first aid regulations apply to all workplaces, regardless of the number of employees and to self-employed individuals too.

What is seen as adequate and appropriate will vary depending on the conditions of the individual workplace, for instance, whether a first aid room or a trained first aider are required. In all cases, however, employers must assess their workplace to determine what first aid facilities are required.

First aid provision for non-employees is not legally required but is recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

First aid assessments

All employers must assess their workplace and workforce for first aid requirements, taking into consideration all of the following:

  • the type of work carried out
  • any hazards or risks at work
  • number of employees
  • employee working hours
  • what will happen when appointed persons and/or first aiders are absent from work, for instance, when they go on holiday
  • past history of accidents and injuries at work
  • first aid provision for workers who are not on site
  • availability of emergency services, for instance, where the nearest A&E department is located
  • first aid provision for non-employees

Employers are not required to keep a record of any first aid assessments but may wish to do so to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to health and safety at work. Such records may also prove helpful when examining ongoing needs for first aid provision in the workplace.

First aid provision

The first aid assessment should point to the level of first aid provision that an employer needs to put in place for their workforce.

First aid personnel

The minimum requirement for first aid personnel is to appoint an individual to be responsible for first aid arrangements. This is not necessarily the same as being a first aider. Duties of this individual could include:

  • ensuring that first aid equipment is maintained and available to employees at all times
  • when required, contacting emergency services
  • covering when the first aider is absent

It isn’t necessary for this person to have any formal training in first aid, but someone must be available at all times in this role. It will therefore be necessary to have someone available to step into this role should the main responsible person be absent.

Employers are not required to have a trained first aider at work. The need for a first aider, or numerous first aiders, will be indicated by the findings of the first aid assessment.

First aiders should be appropriately trained, not only in providing first aid but also in the relevant legislation.

First aid equipment and facilities

The minimum requirement is the provision of a first aid kit, which is kept stocked with suitable items, for each workplace. Where the workplace is large, it may be necessary to have more than one first aid kit available. The responsible person should check the first aid kit on a regular basis to ensure it is kept fully stocked.

A basic first aid kit could include:

  • guidance information
  • adhesive plasters
  • bandages and dressings
  • safety pins or adhesive tape, for securing bandages and dressings
  • disposable gloves
  • appropriate wipes

The number of first aid kits and their contents will rely wholly on the results of your first aid assessment. Does the nature of the work carried out in the workplace require additional first aid materials, such as foil blankets, eyewash or shears for cutting through clothing? Does the high number of staff mean that more than one first aid kid is required? Is there a high turnover of first aid materials used and therefore a regular re-order required?

Medication and tablets are not included as part of the first aid provision, other than aspirin in the case of a suspected heart attack.

First aid kits should always be easily available to employees and their location a key element of the provided first aid information. This could mean that for staff who regularly work away from site, it is necessary to provide a travelling first aid kit.

Employers are not required to provide a dedicated first aid room, unless indicated by their first aid assessment. As with the first aid kit and equipment, the first aid room should be easily available to employees. The first aider or responsible person should supervise this area, ensuring that it is kept in a suitable condition at all times.

A first aid room should be of a sufficient size for an examination couch and be fitted with a sink that has a hot and cold water supply. The room should be easy to clean, ideally with washable surfaces, and be well ventilated, heated and lit. It should always be kept clean and tidy, and be sited close to access for ambulances or other vehicles that may transport an injured person to hospital.

Finally, the door to the first aid room should display a sign stating the names and locations on site of first aiders or the responsible person.

Information for employees

Information on the first aid provision at work must be made available to all employees. It is not enough that the information is displayed in the workplace. Employees must be made aware of the information and the first aid provision.

Accident and ill health record

Recording accidents or ill health at work is not a requirement under the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981. However, RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) places a duty of care on employers to report workplace incidents.
Keeping a record, generally in the form of an accident book, is therefore recommended, and can prove helpful when carrying out your first aid assessment or monitoring ongoing first aid needs.

First aid for the self employed

In this instance, the assumption is that you do not have employees.

Where you are self-employed, you are required to provide sufficient first aid materials and equipment to ensure you can treat yourself in the case of an injury at work. Where you are travelling for work, this would generally mean carrying a travel first aid kit with you.

Depending on the nature of your work, having a basic domestic first aid kit may be sufficient. Carry out a first aid assessment on all aspects of your work, including the nature of your work, your work environments and your personal health history, to decide what you need.

Where you are working on a customer site, you are still responsible for your own first aid provision, but you may wish to discuss this with your customer before starting work with them.

Penalties for non-compliance to first aid rules

Failure to comply with first aid legislation may result in prosecution, unlimited fines and in serious cases, imprisonment.

Why take legal advice?

With the potential for such serious penalties for non-compliance to first aid legislation, employers can best safeguard themselves, their employees and their business by following the first aid guidelines set out by the HSE and the Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981.

Take specialist legal advice to ensure you are fully informed and acting in compliance with first aid legislation.