As of the 1st October 2013, there has been a change in health and safety regulations. Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 have been amended; the HSE no longer needs to approve first aid training and qualifications. This change in regulations applies to all businesses and sectors. This change has been done to reduce the burden on employers and to give them more flexibility in choosing their own training providers and first aid facilities relevant to their work places. However, employers still have a legal responsibility to ensure their training providers meet set standards and there is adequate first aid provision at the workplace. The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) sets out the aspects of first aid that employers need to address; it offers advice on what to do to comply with regulations.
All employers need to undertake a “needs assessment” to ascertain the level of first aid provision at work. A first aid assessment can be done yearly or when there is a major oganisational change at work. First aid needs should be regularily reviewed and should be an integral part of the general risk assessments. Reviewing of previous accident reports, illnesses and near misses will help in the first aid needs assessment. The level of first aid personnel, equipment and facilities needs to be adequate for the work place environment. This will depend on the hazards and risks within the workplace. If first aiders are provided in the workplace they should have the appropriate first aid qualification and remain competent in their role. Typically they should hold either first aid at work (FAW) or emergency first aid at work (EFAW). If the needs assessment requires that no first aiders are necessary at work, a competent person should be appointed to fulfill the role; to care of first aid arrangements and to call the emergency services when needed. To ascertain how much first aid provision is needed, employers need to examine the equipment and work role duties to determine the hazards and risks. Some personnel may be at more risk than others. Most small low risk workplaces only need a first aid box, a person appointed to take care of it and to call the emergency services when needed. In this case, this person does not need specific first aid training. However, if the workplace uses heavy machinery or hazardous materials, a trained first aider is essential. If a site has many buildings far apart, it should be considered how quickly the first aider can get from one place to another. Otherwise many representative individuals may need to be appointed.
Staff should be aware of who their first aider is and where equipment and supplies are stored. Specialist training of staff may be necessary for high hazard areas or where there is a frequency of accidents. There may have to be a different risk assessments for each building, for example, an office environment will be different from a production line. There should be safe evacuation emergency procedures set up for staff and personnel who are disabled. Employees working alone, contractors, mobile workers and shift workers should be considered in the needs assessment as their requirements may differ. There is no legal obligation to cover visitors on a site, but it is good practice to make provision for them. In performing a first aid needs assessment there are many things that can help. These include accident report books, work manuals, absence records, ambulance response times, holiday patterns and age profile of employees.
In assessing their needs, employers should consider:
■ the nature of the workforce, for example, heavy industrial or general office
■ the reporting and frequency of previous accidents
■ the size of the organization and number of employees
■ the needs of shift, contract, and remote workers
■ the distribution of the workforce
■ the remoteness of the site from emergency services
■ employees working on multi-occupied sites
■ annual leave of first-aiders and appointed persons