• How to improve first aid in the workplace Mar 7, 2018
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    While none of us like to think about it, we are constantly at risk from any number of maladies. While most won’t come to pass, it is worth catering for every possible eventuality, and having a first aid policy that can tackle illness and injuries as they arise.

    Despite this, many small and even large businesses fail to cater adequately for first aid. Regardless of how risky your daily operations are, there are a number of steps you should and could be taking to guarantee your safety, and potentially even save lives.

    Mandatory minimums

    ‘Adequate and appropriate’ provisions, including first aid equipment, rooms and trained personnel. There are very few specific legislative requirements in regards to what you should have or in what quantity, Instead it falls to the business owner to decide what is proportionate, and to fall broadly in line with the HSE’s guidelines.

    For low hazard businesses with fewer than 25 employees, this usually takes the form of a single ‘appointed person’ to take charge in emergency situations. This person should ideally have accredited first aid training, but again, this is not a necessity.

    In addition, the HSE expects that you maintain a ‘well stocked’ first aid kit, with items including bandages, plasters, dressings, gloves and eye patches. These guidelines also apply to higher hazard businesses (e.g. engineering, food processing or manufacturing) with five or fewer employees.

    Low risk businesses with 25-50 employees should have at least one Emergency First Aid At Work (EFAW) trained first aider. High risk businesses with 5-50 employees should have a first aider trained in either First Aid At Work (FAW) or EFAW, depending on the nature of the work being carried out.

    Businesses with more than 50 employees should have a FAW trained first aider for every 100 or 50 employees, respectively. Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may be expected to have a dedicated first aid room with relevant supplies.

    You are not strictly required to accomodate members of the public, even if they regularly visit your facility. That said, the HSE does strongly advise that you factor them into your health & safety policy. This may also depend on footfall, as well as the nature of your clientele.

    First aid training

    While there is not necessarily an obligation to have a trained first aider, we strongly recommend it. Emergencies can occur regardless of the size of your workplace, or the kinds of work you engage in. Better too to overprovide with no serious injuries or illness than to have underprovided, and suddenly find that you are unequipped for an emergency.

    Having an employee on hand who can not just control the situation but also administer treatment ahead of the emergency services could be the difference between life and death. This is particularly pertinent given that ambulances are currently stretched, as well as the merging of some hospital services, meaning longer trips to A&E.

    There are a number of ways to obtain first aid training. The most common is to receive nationally recognised training from an accredited training provider. These will commonly bear the mark of Ofqual (England), the SQA (Scotland) or the Welsh Government.

    The most common forms of first aid training are the L3 QA Awards in Emergency First Aid At Work and First Aid At Work, respectively. The recommended level of training for first aid providers is Level 3, with the course depending on the nature of work in your business. Applicants are not generally required to have completed another first aid qualification before taking Level 3 training.

    Changes by the HSE in 2013 were designed to offer more flexibility for first aid training to employers. You may now also receive valid training from voluntary aid societies, individuals or enterprises acting under voluntary accreditation, and independent training providers. However, you are also now responsible for carrying out due diligence to ensure the legitimacy of their training.

    Accredited training providers avoid this process of due diligence on the part of the employer. You can choose an Ofqual or equivalent qualification safe in the knowledge that the training is valid, quality assured, and offered by qualified and competent trainers.

    Other ways to improve first aid

    While it is not a requirement, it’s strongly recommended that you designate a first aid room if you have space within your facility. This should be a first aid room only, too - we’ve seen more than a few supposed ‘first aid rooms’ that have actually been repurposed for storage, left in a poor condition, or left inaccessible when they’re needed most.

    The ideal first aid room is easily accessible from the most trafficked areas of the facility, and within relatively easy reach of the exits. The space should be bright with natural light if possible, while ensuring that the contents are well protected from the elements.

    It should be well stocked with relevant provisions, too - if you don’t know what these would be, conduct a risk assessment. Consider all of the things that could feasibly happen to employees, and look at how you could mitigate the risks. Then, in planning for the worst case scenario, include provisions to help treat resultant injuries and illness.

    One substantial provision that’s of benefit to any workplace is a defibrillator. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are now available for under £1000, and represent a potentially life saving investment. At present, just 8% of cardiac arrest victims outside of a hospital survive in the UK. Statistics show that the effective use of a defibrillator and CPR in the event of cardiac arrest can increase survival chances to as much as 74%.

    For this reason, first aid training to at least a basic level is highly beneficial for all employees, or at least a substantive proportion. One of the benefits of an AED however is that it is extremely simple to operate. While most defibrillators will offer instructions as to how to use them, AEDs operate largely automatically, administering treatment at the right time for the victim.


    Ultimately, the best thing you can do to improve safety in your workplace is to be aware of the HSE’s recommendations, and to agitate for change. Securing first aid training and a well equipped first aid room represent the ideal scenario - but the most important step is to ensure that first aid awareness permeates your organisation, and influences decision making at the highest levels.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
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