Those who have experienced first aid training will remember the time they had to bandage a bewildered colleague, or resuscitate a plastic doll called Annie.
Yet first aid is actually a deadly serious subject — especially in workplaces where employees are faced with dangerous hazards every day. That’s why provision for medical help needs to be available at your organisation at all times.
There are two key aims of first aid at work:
To give immediate assistance to someone with a common injury or illness
To summon professional help in a serious medical situation
Meeting these aims, as well as legal compliance, is often the responsibility of HR. Make sure you have the knowledge to put effective first aid in place and prevent accidents and penalties.
First aid legal requirements
By law, there are several first aid provisions your organisation needs to make in a working environment. These are:
- a suitably stocked first aid kit (for example, individually wrapped plasters, eye pads, safety pins, wound dressings and disposable gloves)
- a designated person responsible for first aid arrangements
- information for employees about first aid arrangements
It is your organisation’s responsibility as an employer to make sure their premises are compliant.
Compliance is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whose purpose is to ensure harm is prevented. This government body has the power to prosecute if basic standards aren’t met. Its actions can include bringing employers to court after an accident where no first aid provision was made, publishing details of non-compliant companies and conducting investigations into workplace incidents.
Do employees need first aid training?
There’s no law to say that a workplace must have trained first aiders on site. As a minimum, there should be someone appointed to look after first aid equipment and call the emergency services if required.
Of course, if a workplace uses chemicals or dangerous machinery, then staff should be formally trained to react if someone is ill or injured at work.
The HSE no longer has to approve the training staff receive. First Aid Training is best delivered by reputable voluntary aid societies like St John’s Ambulance, the British Red Cross and St Andrew’s First Aid.
When deciding which employees to train, your organisation should think about:
- The nature of their work: what are the main hazards?
- Staff work patterns: it’s useful to train the staff who are most often present, and make sure cover is provided during their absence.
- The organisation’s history: do some types of accident happen more often?
- The practicality of the company location: how accessible are emergency medical services? What about provision for members of the public?
Enforcing first aid standards
Your employees need to be aware of the first aid arrangements at their workplace. Because if this information is ever needed, it’ll be needed fast! As a minimum, you should display notices with names of first aiders and locations of first aid kits.
It’s also important to:
- keep employee training up to date
- keep line managers well informed
- make sure organisational procedures are up to date with latest legal requirements from Ofqual and SWA
- make special arrangements to inform employees with reading or language difficulties