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Providing effective first aid provision for your workforce

First Aid
Have you got your first aid cover correct - it pays to know.
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be administered to employees if they are injured or become ill at work.


The action taken in the first few minutes following a serious incident at work can have a major influence on the final outcome to that person in your workplace.

The purpose of first aid at work is therefore to prevent the condition worsening and promote rapid recovery in the event of such a circumstance occurring at work.

The absolute minimum provision for first aid in any workplace is as follows:
  • A suitably stocked first aid box.
  • An appointed person to take charge of first aid in an emergency.
Phil Wass
Phil Wass is a Chartered Safety and Health practitioner and has a Masters Degree in Occupational Health and Safety. He is Managing Director of Wass Management Limited who specialise in all aspects of health and safety training, advice and guidance. Phil is an advisor to the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers' Association and understands the needs of the industry. He regularly carries out work for MVDA members.

If you have any health and safety issues, visit Wass Management Limited, email Phil or you can contact him on 01773 541441
Guidelines are given as to how many first aiders should be present in a workplace and these are generally as follows:
Low Risk (e.g. an office)
  • Less than 50 employees = at least one appointed person.
  • 50 – 100 employees = at least one first aider.
  • 100 + employees = one additional first aider for every 100 employees.
Medium Risk (e.g. light engineering, warehousing, etc.)
  • Fewer than 20 employees = at least one appointed person.
  • 20 – 100 employees = at least one first aider for every 50 employed.
  • 100 + employees = one additional first aider for every 100 employees.
High Risk (e.g. construction, work with dangerous machinery, etc.)
  • Fewer than 5 employees = at least one appointed person.
  • 5 – 50 employees = at least one first aider.
  • 50 + employees = one additional first aider for every 50 employees.
However it is not quite as simple as that! Accidents can happen at any time. A first aid provision therefore needs to be available at any time that people are at work. Therefore companies need to look at their shift patterns, their absenteeism levels, their holiday rotas, etc. and plan for an appropriate level of trained people to be available to match those patterns.

The next question often asked is what is the difference between an appointed person and a first aider?
The role of an appointed person is:
  • Take control when someone is injured (including calling the emergency services).
  • Take control when someone is injured (including calling the emergency services).
  • Look after the first aid equipmen.t
  • Keep records of first aid given.
Appointed persons should never attempt to give first aid treatment for which they are not competent.
By comparison the role of a first aider is as follows:
  • To do all of the above (ref. an appointed person)
  • But also to give first aid to an injured party as appropriate (e.g. to control bleeding, to restore breathing, etc.).
It is also critical to inform your workforce of your first arrangements in your workplace (via notices, etc.).

In 2003 the 1981 Regulations were amended when the following was discovered via research:
  • Small organisations were finding it difficult to release employees to attend a four day first aid at work course.
  • There was confusion in industry as to the role and training requirement for an appointed person.
  • There was clearly a significant depletion in the knowledge retained by a trained first aider after just a short period following the training (especially if they had not had to practice the skills learnt in that intervening period).
There was clearly a significant depletion in the knowledge retained by a trained first aider after just a short period following the training (especially if they had not had to practice the skills learnt in that intervening period).

It was therefore decided that:-
  • A one day training course (Emergency First Aid at Work) would be appropriate in a low risk organisation.
  • A one day training course (Emergency First Aid at Work) would be appropriate in a low risk organisation.
  • The full first aid at work course (previously 4 days) would be reduced to 3 days of training.
  • All first aiders should attend a half day refresher course annually during their 3 year certification period.
A recent development in first aid provision at work is that more and more organisations are deciding to place a defibrillator in their workplace too.

One in four of the adult population will die from heart disease according to The British Heart Foundation (BHF) and a cardiac arrest could easily happen at work. Speed of reaction time and taking the right action would be absolutely critical at such times.



I hope that this article has helped to clear up doubts about how to address another legal requirement of health and safety legislation at work in a straightforward and practical manner?

May 2016

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