From papercuts or lacerations to falls or manual handling injuries, injuries can occur at any time whatever your work activities. As an employer, how do you determine what needs to be included in your first-aid kit? Chris Adams gives some guidance on assessing your needs for first aid in the workplace.

What does first aid mean?

As defined in the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, first aid means “treatment for the purpose of preserving life and minimising the consequences of injury and illness” until more specialist help can be obtained, or the “treatment of minor injuries” where specialist help is not required.

It is a misconception that someone who has undertaken first-aid training should know what to do in any injury or illness situation that may arise: the role of first-aiders is simply to give short-term emergency aid or treatment where medical assistance is not required.

What is required by the law?

The legal responsibilities placed on employers in the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 are to provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and qualified persons to ensure employees can receive first-aid treatment if injured or taken ill at work. In addition, an employer has the duty to inform its employees of the first-aid arrangements that have been made.

What size of first-aid kit do you need?

The size of your first-aid kit is something that only you, the employer, can ascertain. BS 8599-1:2019 First Aid Kits for the Workplace offers a basic structure for a kit but it ultimately depends on the level of risk and number of employees in your workplace.

The table below shows the BS 8599 recommendation for the size of first-aid kit required, based on a combination of the level of risk and the number of employees in the workplace.

Risk/No. of Employees

Small

Medium

Large

Low risk — less than 25

X

Low risk — 25–100

X

Low risk — 100+

X

High risk — less than 5

X

High risk — 5–100

X

High risk — 25+

X

Note:

this information is for guidance only and a risk assessment should be carried out for each workplace.

  • Low-risk environments include offices, libraries, shops, etc.

  • High-risk workplaces include those with engineering, processing, warehousing, construction and manufacturing work activities.

What do you need in your first-aid kit?

There are no legal requirements for what to stock in a first-aid kit. While many employers buy standard first-aid kits off the shelf and hope it will be enough, ideally you should determine what is adequate and appropriate by means of a first-aid needs assessment exercise.

This will inform the organisation of the number of people the first-aid kit needs to cover, the demands of the working environment, which activities might present most risk to employees and how often, and what level of risk they face.

So, it really does depend on your individual workplace and the type of organisation and industry you operate in.

Things to consider in a first-aid needs assessment

When conducting a first-aid needs assessment, the following should be considered:

  • the type of the work the organisation does

  • specific hazards and risks in your workplace, including those that may need special arrangements (eg on construction sites where there is an increased presence of dust and other particles, an eye-wash station may be recommended, or a burns station where there is hot work)

  • the nature and size of your workforce (eg you may have many different sites or a large percentage of employees for whom English is not their first language)

  • different working patterns of staff — this will require greater communication and planning to ensure there is enough cover at all times

  • separate car emergency kits where employees drive for work

  • past accidents that have occurred within your organisation.

Advice from the Health and Safety Executive recommends that, when assessing your first-aid needs, you should also consider:

  • the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers

  • how long it would take emergency medical services to reach your site

  • whether your employees work on shared or multi-occupancy sites

  • first-aid provision for non-employees (eg members of the public).

First-aid kit contents, as recommended by BS 8599-1, are shown in the table below.

Contents

Small

Medium

Large

First-aid guidance leaflet

1

1

1

Medium sterile dressing

2

4

6

Large sterile dressing

2

3

4

Triangular dressing

2

3

4

Eye dressing

2

3

4

Adhesive dressings

40

60

100

Sterile wet wipes

20

30

40

Microporous tape

1

2

3

Nitrile gloves — pair

6

9

12

Face shield

1

2

3

Foil blanket

1

2

3

Burns dressing 10 × 10cm

1

2

2

Clothing shears

1

1

1

Conforming bandage

1

2

2

Finger dressing

2

3

4

Sterile eyewash — 250ml

0

0

0

Last reviewed 22 January 2020