What is the legal requirement for first aid at work in the UK?

what are the legal requirements for first aid at work?

Every employer in the UK is required by law to provide first aid provision to their employees. If the worst should happen when you are at work and you sustain an injury or endure a health emergency such as a heart attack or stroke, then you have to feel safe and confident that there are precautions in place to give you the best chance of recovery. In the most critical instances, the correct first aid provision could make the difference between life and death. 

However, you might be asking yourself what the legal requirement is for first aid at work (FAW) in the UK, and what does this look like in practice for your business. The truth is that it is different for every company, so what suits one workplace might look different to another. In this blog post, we’ll look at what the relevant UK first aid at work legislation is, and what they may mean for your business. 

St John Ambulance Cymru is here to help your business become and remain compliant with all first aid and H&S regulations. Our expert Commercial Training Team can help you carry out an initial assessment and evaluate what kind of coverage you need. We also run a variety of first aid courses across Wales. So, no matter your first aid needs, St John Ambulance Cymru is here to help. Call us on 0345 678 5646 or send us an email – no obligation. 

First aid at work law in the UK 

The key law that you need to be aware of when it comes to first aid for the workplace in the UK is The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. According to the Health & Safety Executive, which enforces H&S-related legislation in the UK, this law requires employers to “provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.” If you want, you can read the entire piece of legislation on the government website.  

It’s very important to be aware that this applies to all businesses. It doesn’t matter if there is one employee or 10,000, there must be suitable first aid provision. 

Are there penalties for breaching legislation? 

There absolutely are penalties if you do not abide by The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Primarily you can be expected to pay a huge fine should you be found to not meet the minimum first aid requirements. It’s not unusual for this to reach hundreds of thousands of pounds, so you absolutely do not want to be in a position where you need to pay a fine such as this due to first aid negligence.  The HSE will also prosecute if the breach is considered serious. 

There are also other factors that you need to consider when it comes to breaching first aid legislation. You will likely suffer a reputational loss in your industry if it is found out, and it can be very hard to mend a company’s reputation in this instance, perhaps impossible. Employees will also likely suffer from low morale, which may result in low productivity, impacting the bottom line. If employees do not feel valued or looked after, then they will likely leave, resulting in high turnover for your company.  

This can all be avoided by ensuring your first aid facilities are appropriate for your business. 

What is considered adequate and appropriate first aid provisions? 

Trying to understand the suitable first aid cover for your business can be confusing, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. First, it’s important to be aware that the absolute minimum at any place of work that should be accessible to all employees always is: 

  • A suitably stocked first aid kit. 

  • An individual who is appointed to oversee first aid matters. 

  • Information about first aid arrangements that employees can easily access and understand.  

How do I know what first aid provisions I need? 

You will need to undertake what we call a first aid needs assessment. As an employer, you are the best-placed person to decide what first aid coverage your business needs. Your first aid needs assessment will take into account hazards that exist in your workplace and the work employees do that can result in injury. You will have to take into account the general health and demographics of your employees and what first aid coverage they may specifically need (for example, if there are any underlying illnesses).  

You will also need to consider how many employees you have and therefore how much first aid coverage you need to ensure there is always sufficient first aid support should it be needed.  This will include taking into account that employees will be taking holidays and absences.  

Alongside the above, you will need to consider the needs of employees who travel for work or who work remotely, as well as how far away you are from the nearest emergency medical services. Finally, if members of the public are visiting your place of work, then you should also take potential first aid issues with them arising into account.  

What is an appointed person? 

An appointed person will oversee making sure the first aid kit remains adequately stocked, replacing items when they need to do so. They should also be the ones to call and speak with emergency services if it’s required.  

If you have a suitable amount of first aiders at your place of work, then you will not need an appointed person.  

Do I need a first aider at work? 

As we mentioned above, the HSE minimum requirement is that someone is appointed to oversee first aid matters.  However, the vast majority of workplaces will require a first aider. A first aider is someone who is trained in first aid and who can deliver lifesaving support to someone should it be needed. They will need to be trained in First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) by a competent training provider. 

St John Ambulance Cymru is Wales’ leading first aid training provider. We are not just like any other accredited training provider – We are one of the UK’s voluntary aid societies (VAS) and that means that the HSE looks to us for guidance when it comes to first aid practice.  

You won’t find a better first aid training provider than us if you’re in Wales, and we offer courses in First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work. Call us on 0345 678 5646 or send us an email to inquire further. Our Commercial Training Team can also assist with your first aid needs assessment, and help you decide how many you need to cover your business. You can also use our Requirements Calculator

Should my first aider be trained in FAW or EFAW? 

This will depend on your business, both the size and whether it is low or high risk. We find that EFAW is suitable for only small workplaces with no hazards, and that for the majority of businesses FAW is the most suitable course. However, please do get in touch with us to discuss with our team further by calling 0345 678 5646 or by sending us an email. We’ll help you identify the correct course for you.  

What do I need to put in a first aid kit? 

There is no limit to the number of helpful products you can put in a first aid kit. The HSE strongly recommends that seven key things should be in each first aid box: a leaflet on providing first aid support, sterile plasters of assorted sizes, two eye pads, at least three pairs of disposable gloves, two large wound dressings, four triangular bandages, and six safety pins. 

What information do I need to provide employees? 

Employees need to know that you have put in place sufficient first aid precautions. You should clearly signpost first aid kits and ensure that employees are aware of who the appointed person in charge of first aid is. Similarly, they must be aware of who the first aiders are at work. You may consider providing employees with leaflets or putting up posters. Make sure that all new starters are aware of your first aid procedures too. 

You should also take precautionary measures and ensure the information can be obtained by employees who have difficulty reading or for whom English is not their native language. In Wales you should strongly consider providing all communications relating to first aid in Welsh. 


In this blog post, we’ve identified the relevant first aid legislation in the UK, and what it means for your business. For your next step, you’ll need to undertake a first aid risk assessment to identify the exact coverage your business needs. Remember, there’s serious consequences for not sufficiently covering your workplace for first aid or breaching guidelines, so make sure you are thorough in identifying your needs! 

St John Ambulance Cymru is here to help you every step of the way when it comes to first aid coverage. As well as First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work training, we run a range of first aid courses so that no matter your business, we will have training to ensure you and your employees are sufficiently covered. We can also come to your place of work if there are six or more employees that need training, and we can also tailor bespoke training for your specific business needs.  

Speak to our Commercial Training Team today to start your workplace first aid journey. Call us on 0345 678 5646 or send us an email to inquire with no obligation. 

Published August 8th 2023

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