First aid is still essential in the workplace

Just how many first aiders should there actually be in the workplace? What essential items should always be in the first aid box?  When should a company have a dedicated first aid room? New advice from the HSE, Health and Safety Executive, aims to answer these questions, and many more besides.

The HSE has issued a reminder to all employers that they must have some kind of first aid arrangements in place in all workplaces. The advice was published on August 4th on the HSE website and included vital information on the appointment of a designated first aider and also details on how a workplace related accident or an incident of ill health should be properly reported.

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The HSE stresses that “as a minimum” employers must have

• A suitably stocked first-aid box. The HSE advises that the first aid box should contain sterile plasters, sterile eye pads, triangular bandages, safety pins, wound dressings, a pair of disposable gloves and the HSE leaflet on first aid at work.

• A first-aid needs assessment

• An appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements (even if the first aid needs assessment deems that no first-aiders are necessary you must have an appointed person)

• Information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements – who the first aiders and appointed persons are and where the first aid box is will usually be sufficient

First aid rooms and mobile phones

The HSE stresses that where there are large numbers of employees, an employer should consider providing a first-aid room. A first-aid needs assessment, the organisation says, should also determine whether mobile phones need to be issued to employees who “travel a lot, work remotely or work alone”.

How many first aiders should a workplace have?

The HSE advises that in low hazard work environments with less than 25 employees – for instance in offices, shops and libraries – it is sometimes acceptable for only one first aider to be appointed.

The first aider: worker ratio, the HSE believes, should be adjusted in higher-hazard environments such as in places where there is light engineering or assembly work. “At least one trained first-aider for every 50 employed” is the suggested ratio.

The importance of risk assessments

Holding a first-aid needs assessment is vital for employers looking to offer a safe level of first aid support. Risk assessments are equally crucial at determining whether there are unsafe working practices endangering workers’ health and safety.

It was an unsafe working practice which recently resulted in a 60-year-old Lincolnshire man severing two fingers in a factory accident.

The HSE website details how the man was adding seasoning to pork products in a mixing machine when he noticed a piece of blue plastic in the mixer.

The accident occurred as he reached into the unguarded mixing machine to remove the plastic. Although he returned to employment after several operations and ten months off work, the worker, having lost nerve endings in his damaged fingers, was unable to do the same job.

An investigation found that the mixing machine should have been guarded by an electrically locked gate at the top of a set of access steps. Had this measure been in place the accident would not have happened.

A risk assessment in February 2009 identified the danger posed by a lack of locked gates. The accident took place just nine months later; an illustration of the danger of employers failing to look after their employees’ safety.