First Aid in the Workplace
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
Health and Safety Consultant
A note before we start…
From my experience, First Aid can be one of the first things that a company may try and tackle when they are starting/reviewing their health and safety management program. Initially this can mean a significant investment, with training, time and first aid equipment. It is for sure a great place to start and a very important area to keep on top of. Unfortunately, unless you review the training regularly and manage your first aid stock, then you can end up being back to square one within a year or two. So, rule number one, when you invest time and money into the area of First Aid, make sure you maintain it to get the value from it.
Before we get stuck into the details of First Aid in the workplace, it is important that you are aware of the specific requirements. You can find them all under the Chapter 2 of Part 7 of the General Application Regulations 2007 in Ireland, The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 for UK, and check out some OSHA resources here for US.
Ok! Let’s dive in…
What is First Aid?
So, what does “First Aid” actually mean?
First-aid Regulation 163. In this Chapter:
(a) in a case where a person requires treatment from a registered medical practitioner or a registered general nurse, treatment for the purpose of preserving life or minimising the consequences of injury or illness until the services of a practitioner or nurse are obtained, or
(b) in a case of a minor injury which would otherwise receive no treatment or which does not need treatment by a registered medical practitioner or registered general nurse, treatment of that minor injury; “occupational first-aider” means a person trained and qualified in occupational first-aid.
So, in a nutshell, First Aid is the immediate temporary care for the ill and/or injured. The role of the first aider is three-fold:
- Preserve life – Keep the person alive. Basic ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)
- Prevent further injury – Manage the situation to prevent it from getting worse and managing the casualty from getting any worse, by treating their injuries.
- Promote recovery – Try to help the person feel better by talking to them and supporting them emotionally.
Thankfully the majority of workplace first aid requirements are minor. Usually these are cuts, bruises, burns, sprains etc. However, it is where more serious incidents occur that the three P’s come into action! These will ensure that the First Aider concentrates on the priorities and makes the best decisions for the safety and well-being of the casualty.
How many per workplace?
One of the first questions I get asked when reviewing the area of First Aid, is “how many first aiders do I actually need”? It’s a good place to start. Here is what the HSA says:
*“A risk assessment in the context of the Safety Statement should consider the numbers employed, the nature of the work, the degree of hazard, the level of accidents arising, the size and location of the workplace, the distribution of the employees, shift working, availability of an occupational health service with the workplace and the distance and duration from external medical services etc.”
You may find the table below from the HSA helpful in deciding how many First Aider’s you need:
Benefits of First Aid Training
Having your employees trained in First Aid will benefit in many ways:
- Save lives
- Reduce the number of workplace accidents
- Creates a positive work environment
- A safer place to work
- First Aid kits used correctly
- May reduce recovery time
- Can have a positive effect on employees outside the workplace
- Instils confidence and clarity during an emergency
- A positive investment in health and safety in the workplace
Any safety training that you do with your employees will create a positive ripple effect on your employees and for your company. The more people you can involve in safety, the better it will be for your company when it comes to awareness and commitment.
Once you have your First Aiders trained up, it is important that you review your First Aid kits:
- Who will check them?
- How often will they be checked?
- Will you keep a record of what has been used?
You will also need to consider how you communicate your First Aid policy and who your First Aiders are and where the First Aid kits are kept. If you have a company intranet or notice board, you could post this important information there. You could also have a sign in area for your first aiders, to let employees know who is on site and how to contact them. You could also include this important information in the employee induction and handbook. If you have a site map, then you could include First Aid locations on this too.
It’s important to remember that First Aid certificates expire after two years. After investing time and money into training, make sure that you have a system in place that will remind you to book employees on refresher training before their cert expires. This is a common downfall that I see on a regular basis in companies that I am working with.
Treat First Aid in the workplace as an important part of your safety management system and ensure you get the most out of it by keeping on top of training and maintenance. Don’t just let it be a “tick the box” activity, as it is so much more than that.
For help, advice or training requirements in your workplace, get in touch here.
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