The decision regarding what to include in a first aid box primarily depends on outcomes of the needs evaluation exercise. As a general guide, where activities at a premise/ place of work involve low risks, a minimum list of items that should be included in a first aid kit are as follows:
1. A leaflet that provides general guidance on when, how, why and where to offer first aid. A good example is the leaflet developed by the Health-and-Safety Executive.
2. Gloves that can be disposed after use.
3. Individually enfolded and sterilized plasters of varying sizes, suitable for work undertaken at the workplace. If it is necessary, employers should provide hypoallergenic plasters.
4. Individually enfolded, un-medicated and sterilized wound dressings. The dressings should be medium-sized.
5. Sterilized eye pads.
6. Large sterilized, un-medicated and individually enfolded wound dressings.
7. Individually wrapped and sterilized triangular bandages.
8. Adequate number of safety pins.
So what should be in a first aid kit in the workplace? All employers should refer to BS- 8599. The British Standard provides additional information concerning contents of first aid kits at premises/ workplaces.
Contents of the box should be a reflection of results of the needs evaluation exercise, regardless of whether an employer makes use of a BS-8599 compliant first aid kit or an alternative first aid box.
Ideally, medicines and tablets should not be kept in the box.
How frequently should the contents be replaced or replenished?
What should be in a first aid kit in the workplace? This is an important question that is usually followed by another vital question- how frequently should employers replace or replenish contents of the kit?
Even though there is absolutely no specified replacement or replenishment timetable, many items have clearly-indicated expiry dates, especially the sterilised items.
Contents should be replaced in accordance with the stipulated dates. On the other hand, items that have expired should be safely disposed.
In the event that no expiry dates have been indicated on sterilised objects, it would be wise to get in touch with manufacturers to establish exactly how long the items can be kept.
Employers are expected to use their wisdom and discretion to determine if non-sterilised items with no expiry dates are still suitable for use.
What equipment should employers provide to facilitate the provision of first aid when need arises? What should be in a first aid kit in the workplace?
Once the first aid needs of an organisation have been evaluated, employers can use the results to decide the type and number of equipment required in a particular workplace. A suitably equipped first aid kit is the minimum requirement.
The evaluation may point out additional materials and first aid equipment needed. For instance, scissors, individually wrapped wipes, hypoallergenic adhesive tape, gloves and disposable aprons may be needed. The items may either be stored in a single first aid kit or kept in separate containers.
In case it is difficult to obtain tap water for eye irrigation, an employer should provide a litre of sterilised water (or more) in a sealed container that can be disposed after use.
The container should be disposed in case the seal gets broken. Additionally, it should be disposed upon crossing the indicated expiry date.
First aid provision for employers who travel to remote locations without company
Employers have the responsibility of meeting their workers’ first aid needs while working in areas other than the primary site. Evaluation of the needs ought to establish whether:#
a) Employees who travel for long distances or are always on the move should carry along personal first aid kits.
b) Mobile phones, tablets or other devices that can facilitate communication should be issued to the employees.
British Standard-8599 & First aid kits
BS-8599 is the British Standard for first aid boxes. In accordance with the Health-and-Safety regulations, employers are not legally required to purchase first aid boxes that are compliant with the standard. Instead, what a first aid kit contains is primarily determined by results of the needs evaluation exercise.
That means employers have two main options:
1. Within the workplace, workers can access a box whose contents are in compliance with the British Standard (BS-8599), and the contents match or go beyond results of the needs evaluation exercise as well.
2. Within the workplace, employees can access a box whose contents are commensurate with results of the needs evaluation exercise, but do not necessarily comply with the British Standard requirements.
What signs should first aid kits have?
According to the Health-and-Safety Regulations, a first aid box should have a clear white cross drawn or painted against a green backdrop. In the same way, any room set aside for performing first aid at the workplace should be effortlessly identifiable by a white cross or clear white lettering on a green backdrop.
Signs should be strategically placed where people can see and identify them without difficulty.
How many designated first aiders does an organisation need?
Outcomes of the first aid needs evaluation exercise can help employers determine an appropriate number of first aiders needed in a workplace. Hard and fast rules regarding this number do not exist at all. Employers should consider all the applicable circumstances of their specific workplace.
Can someone take legal action against an organisation’s first aiders?
There are very few cases in the United Kingdom where action has been taken against first aiders. This is because when compared to doctors and other medical specialists, first aiders generally have less training and less sophisticated equipment at their disposal.
The Health-and-Safety Executive does not offer any specific counsel on this issue given that the subject falls outside HSE’ legal mandate.
As an employer, you can seek guidance from a reputable solicitor. You can also get in touch with your employer’s insurer and find out if first aiders’ liability is covered by their insurance policies.
Is it advisable to keep tablets and other medicines inside first aid kits?
According to the Health-and-Safety regulations, tablets and medicines should not be kept inside the kits. This is because the drugs may spill over or get damaged. As a result, they may become less effective, completely ineffective or even dangerous.
Ideally, medicines should be kept in a cool and dry environment. The setting inside first aid kits cannot be described as cool and dry.
Does the law allow first aiders to issue tablets and other medicines to casualties?
Provision of first aid at the work place does not include the administration of tablets or medicines. Treating illnesses is not one of the reasons why first aid is administered. However, there is an exception to this rule. The law allows a casualty to be given aspirin during the administration of first aid if it is suspected that that he/she is at risk of suffering a heart attack. However, the medicine should be given in accordance with suitable first aid practices.
Some employees carry along medications prescribed by their physicians for the management of asthma and other medical conditions. For instance, an inhaler may be found inside the kit or pockets if the patient is asthmatic. If someone needs to take medication that has been prescribed to them, the responsibility of the first aider will be restricted to helping that patient take the drugs and contacting providers of emergency services as deemed appropriate.
Nevertheless, this rule is inapplicable to the administration of medicines that must be prescribed, as stipulated in the 19th Schedule of the MR 2012 (Medicines Regulations enacted in 2012), where the main objective is to save lives in emergency cases.
Where an evaluation to determine an organisation’s first aid needs establishes that medicines may be necessary in emergency cases (in accordance with the 19th Schedule), the employer ought to provide first aiders at the premises/ workplace with further training.
Are there penalties that can be imposed against employers who contravene First Aid Regulations?
The Health-and-Safety Executive appropriately deals with employers who knowingly or unknowingly breach the First-Aid regulations. Breaches may include: failure to provide a first aid box, failure to include the right items in the kit or failure to replenish or replace items in the first aid box when necessary.
Enforcement action may include prosecution of the offender (if circumstances call for stern action) or issuance of a formal notice.
Are first aiders legally required to go through refresher training every year?
No, that is not the case. Generally, employers are encouraged to take measures that would ensure their first aiders and appointed persons maintain basic skills and also remain updated with advancements in first aid practices (if any).
Do employers have the legal obligation to put measures in place that would ensure members of the general public get first aid whenever need arises?
According to the First Aid/ HSE regulations, employers have absolutely no legal obligation to provide members of the general public with first aid services, or even make provisions for the same. However, learning institutions, shops, places of entertainment, places of worship and many other organisations have no qualms about providing first aid services to others, and have made provisions for this noble objective.
The Health-and-Safety Executive strongly encourages employers to consider the general public when evaluating their first aid needs and also make provisions for the same.
Are concerts and other large events covered by the First Aid Regulations?
Employers are only expected to make provision for the administration of first aid to their employees, customers and other people who visit their premises.
During concerts and other large events, organisers have the responsibility of ensuring that medical and first aid personnel and equipment are readily available as appropriate.
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