A first aid kit is one of the most important tools when it comes to first aid. It is a collection of essential medical supplies and equipment that will enable the user to provide basic medical assistance if a medical emergency occurs.
Deciding what needs to be included in a first aid kit at work can be difficult. After all, there are so many different types of products that could be useful in an emergency situation, it can be hard to know what you need to include and what you can leave out.
Indeed, many employers don’t know what needs to be in a first aid kit. Should an emergency healthcare situation occur in the workplace, it’s really important that the first aid kit be suitably stocked so that first aiders and other responders have the tools needed to provide urgent initial support.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what the first aid regulations say about first aid kits at work, and help you understand the best way of deciding what to include in your workplace kit.
Do I need a first aid kit at work?
Asking yourself whether you need a first aid kit at work or not is a fair question. The primary legislation concerning first aid at work is the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, and it is implemented by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). This regulation states that an employer must provide “equipment and facilities as are adequate and appropriate in the circumstances for enabling first-aid to be rendered to employees if they are injured or become ill at work”.
Specifically on the subject of first aid kits, the law says that “Every employer should provide for each work site at least one first-aid container supplied with a sufficient quantity of first-aid materials suitable for the particular circumstances.”
This means that according to UK law, all UK workplaces must at the very minimum keep one adequately stocked first aid kit, regardless of how many employees the business has. This includes those who are self-employed and small businesses of less than five people. This is to ensure the safety of not only employees, but also any members of the public that may be in your working space.
What needs to be in my first aid kit at work?
Now you know that you are legally mandated to keep at least one first aid kit for every area of work, the next question you will be asking yourself is that as an employer, what do I need to include in each first aid kit? Interestingly, the HSE says that “there is no mandatory list of items to be included in a first-aid container”, which means that there are no mandatory items you must include by law. However, the HSE does offer an advisory content list about what you may wish to include as basic provisions, and also the quantity of them. These are:
A leaflet or pocket guide with instructions on how to provide first aid.
Individually wrapped sterlised plasters of assorted sizes. You should have 20 of these.
Two sterile eye pads.
Six safety pins.
Three pairs of disposable gloves.
Two individually wrapped triangular bandages. It is best if these are sterile.
Six large and medium-sized sterile, individually wrapped, unmedicated wound dressings.
How do I know what else I need to include in a workplace first aid kit?
As part of identifying the level of coverage a business needs to ensure adequate and sufficient coverage as per the legislation requires, an employer will need to carry out a first aid needs assessment. This will identify workplace hazards and potential dangers that employees are exposed to.
It is through this risk assessment and identification of potential hazards that an employer will find out what kind of additional items they will need to include in a workplace first aid kit.
Can I just buy a first aid kit that is already fully stocked?
Although we would always recommend filling your first aid kit at work after a thorough risk assessment to understand the specific risks of your workplace, you can also find pre-packaged first aid kits that will have almost all of the provisions you will need. An employer can then top it up with any other items they require.
If you do decide to purchase a ready-stocked first aid kit for work, then look for one which complies with British Standard (BS) 8599. BS 8599 is a set of guidelines and recommendations provided by the British Standards Institution (BSI) for the provision of first aid in the workplace. BS 8599 is intended to help organizations ensure that they have appropriate first aid provisions in place to effectively respond to workplace first aid incidents.
Does an employer need to maintain a workplace first aid kit?
Employers have a responsibility to not only ensure that a suitably stocked first aid kit is available in the workplace, but also that it is adequately maintained.
Maintaining a first aid kit for work involves ensuring that if items are used, that they are replaced in good time. If there are any items that have a use-by date, then it’s also important that any expired items are thrown away and replaced with new ones. This is especially true for items that need to remain sterile. It may be worth checking with the supplier for best before dates if you are unsure how long the products will last. If anything is opened accidentally or is damaged, then this must be discarded and replaced also.
Even if something doesn’t have an expiry date, it’s always worth checking that the item is still fit for purpose. Ultimately everything has a useful life, and you do not want to find yourself in an emergency situation with expired and ineffective products.
How do I use the products in my workplace first aid kit?
While most of us have applied plasters onto ourselves or others, some of the items in a first aid kit will seem difficult to use at first. If applied incorrectly, then they can be a hindrance or ineffective in an emergency situation rather than the help they are supposed to be.
That’s why the HSE states that every organisation needs to have someone who is designated to oversee first aid related matters. It would be very helpful if they had training in how to use the items found in first aid kits.
Most businesses choose to have a suitable number of employees trained in First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW). As part of this training, delegates will learn how to use the contents of a first aid kit, such as how to correctly apply bandages and so on. They will also learn about a range of other potential workplace first incidents and how to treat them with items you may decide to include in a first aid kit for work.
No matter how many employees are in a business, having a suitable amount of adequately stocked first aid kits is a must according to UK law. How many you have and what is kept in your kit should be decided through a first aid needs assessment. If the worst should happen and a first aid emergency occurs, you will need to prove that you took all necessary precautions. Overlooking the contents of a first aid kit can have serious consequences, so it’s important that employer thoughtfully consider how best to fill it. They should also make sure that at least one employee knows how to use the items in the kit.
St John Ambulance Cymru can teach your employees how to use first aid kits as part of our 3-Day First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work courses. Delegates will also learn vital skills that can save a life in an emergency and a range of other first aid scenarios. Every year, thousands of people from all manner of industries learn essential first aid skills from our experienced and highly trained instructors across Wales. If you’d like to know more, then contact our Commercial Training team on 0345 678 5646 or send them an email. We’re here to make sure your workplace is as safe as it can be.
We also sell a wide variety of first aid kits to make your life easier.