The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure that employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. These regulations apply to all workplaces including those with fewer than five employees and to the self-employed.
Ensuring that the first aid requirements of staff can be met requires sufficient first aid provision in the workplace. This means the presence of trained first aiders (or appointed person/s), information for employees about first aid arrangements, as well as the availability of a first aid kit that’s fit for purpose.
The BS 8599-1 standard (published in June 2011) can be used as a guide to ascertain which type of first aid kit necessary in the workplace. There are four sizes of first aid kid: small, medium, large or travel size. The travel size kits are for one person only.
It is the duty of the employer to make a first aid needs assessment, and so the contents of each individual kit may vary according to each workplace’s requirements. The following table, which should be used as a guide only, can help employers decide which size kit is required. Note that low hazard environments include shops and offices, while high hazard environments include warehouses, factories and construction sites.
|Category of hazard||Number of employees||Size of first aid kit|
|Low hazard||Less than 25||Small size kit|
|25-100||Medium size kit|
|More than 100||1 large kit per 100 employees|
|High hazard||Less than 5||Small size kit|
|5-25||Medium size kit|
|More than 25||1 large kit per 25 employees|
In some circumstances, such as remoteness from emergency medical services, shift work or sites that are large or have several separate buildings, more than one first aid kit may be required.
The BS 8599-1 standard gives recommendations on the container holding the components. The container should be able to fit all of the relevant components inside and close securely, and should be clean, dustproof and provide protection for the contents in a workplace environment.
Although there is no mandatory list of items to be included in a first-aid kit, a suggested minimum stock of first-aid items in a low hazard workplace might be:
- a leaflet on general first aid
- medium sterile dressings (12cm x 12cm)
- large sterile dressings (18cm x 18cm)
- assorted plasters (relevant for the work area)
- triangular bandage (90cm x 127cm)
- safety pins (assorted)
- sterile eye pads
- disposable gloves
Other useful items you may wish to include could be:
- saline cleansing wipes
- roll of adhesive tape
- sterile adhesive dressing/s
- resuscitation face shield with valve
Workplace first aid kits can be complemented by other items that have been identified during a risk assessment, if necessary. Where there are unusual hazards that are specific to a particular workplace environment, workplace first aid kits should be supplemented with additional, appropriate components. Tablets or medicines should not usually be included in first aid kits.
It is very important for employers to ensure that they fulfil their legal responsibilities by offering immediate and appropriate first aid help to employees, as well as supporting employees with their work-related health issues. Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial work-related health advice to GPs, employers and employees in order to support those who have been (or are likely to be) off work for four weeks or more. Visit our website for more information.