First aid kits in the workplace (BS 8599-1)

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog


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.


    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Katharine,
      Thank you for your query. For the majority of burns it is not necessary to apply substances such as burn gels, the recommended treatment for superficial burns is to apply water, please see the following link for additional guidance – medical attention should then be sought urgently for larger burns.
      However, there are very rare exceptions to this for example burns caused by hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid which can continue to burn, where a calcium gluconate gel is applied to reduce the risk of burning.
      We would recommend that exposure to chemicals or heat which may result in burns are adequately addressed either using the usual Risk Assessment process or during a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (C.O,S.H.H) assessment which will help to determine the type of burn likely to result from a process COSHH data sheets will then help to determine the appropriate treatment.
      The Fit for Work team

  1. Fit for Work team

    Yes I do believe you are required to have trained first aiders on site. There is a difference between nursing duties and first aid, and a requirement for regular refresher training, so my belief is that you should have designated trained first aiders. These do not necessarily need to be your clinical staff.

  2. Jenny Vallely

    Can anyone clarify the legal position for clinical premises? We are a GP practice and have a stocked treatment room and any member of staff or the general public requiring first aid would be treated by a nurse or Health Care Assistant from treatment room stock. In the past it has been said that we also need to have a first aid box AND trained first aiders – is this the case?

    • Fit for Work team

      Thank you for your enquiry. There are some requirements within the First Aid At Work Regulations for premises to have provision of trained first aiders and facilities to treat injured staff. Whilst there is no requirement to treat members of the public, this may be slightly different in your case – as there are doctors and nurses in attendance, patients might expect a reasonable level of care pending the arrival of emergency staff. The guidance does advise that it is good practice to assume that the regulations apply equally to visitors and contractors, which I think you could consider visiting patients, in your case. You might wish to have a look at the regulations for further guidance (

      • Jenny Vallely

        Thank you but my query was not about who we had obliations to but what obligation we had to send staff on first aid training when we have a building staffed by people who do that stuff for a living.

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