First aid provision

What is first aid?

First aid is the immediate medical assistance given to someone suffering from an accident, injury or illness. First aid is given by ordinary trained people before professional medical help arrives.

Workers may need first aid during work hours, so it is important that people are trained and equipped to provide first aid to their colleagues.

Employers’ legal obligations

The minimum first aid requirement in every workplace is:

  • a first aid box (including the appropriate equipment);
  • a person trained to administer first aid;
  • first aid information for all employees.

Every employer in the UK, regardless of the size of the company, is legally obliged to plan for the provision of first aid at work.

Employers must make sure that someone is always available to give or arrange first aid. This applies if the designated first aider is absent for any reason. First aiders must have a valid first aid training certificate.

It is not a legal requirement that all employers have a fully trained first aider, but someone must be appointed to take charge of first aid in the workplace.

First aid assessment

All employers in the UK are required to carry out an assessment of first aid requirements. This assessment should consider:

  • whether a designated first aider is required;
  • potential hazards in the workplace;
  • the size of the company in terms of people and area;
  • previous accidents and illnesses;
  • hours of working and shift patterns;
  • the location of employees during working hours (on or off-site);
  • the distance to emergency services;
  • potential visitors to the workplace.

First aid box

There is no set requirement for the contents of a first aid box, but as a minimum it should have:

  • a leaflet giving general first aid guidance;
  • plasters of assorted sizes (20);
  • sterile triangular bandages (4);
  • disposable gloves (1 pair);
  • safety pins (6);
  • medium size sterile wound dressings (6);
  • large-size sterile dressings (2);
  • sterile eye pads (2).

This first aid box is sufficient for most low-hazard workplaces, such as offices. Make sure that all first aid equipment is in date. Tablets and medicines should not be kept in the first aid box.

Special requirements

There is specific legislation regarding the first aid requirements for some industries. For example, diving and offshore work both have additional first aid requirements.

If you are self-employed you must make sure that you have adequate first aid equipment.

If you work from home and carry out low-hazard work you are not expected to supply any first aid equipment beyond domestic needs but you should still assess your first aid requirements.

Next steps for UNISON reps

Make sure that your employer has made  adequate and sensible provision for first aid in the workplace.

Encourage other members to become trained first aiders.

Key facts
  • First aid treatment can save lives, so it is important that first aid is available in your workplace.
  • Your employer must make first aid available for you both at your workplace and off-site.
  • First aid provision should be based on an assessment of the risks at your workplace.
  • Your employer should have an accessible first aid box containing basic first aid equipment.


First aid

  • How can I become a first aider?

    Ask your employer about becoming a first aider. Most organisations are keen to train people in first aid as it makes the workplace safer.

  • What if I am self-employed?

    Self-employed members may encounter a range of potential first aid situations. You are required by law to make your own first aid provision but if you work with other employed or self-employed people, it is advisable to create a written agreement on first aid between yourselves.

  • What if there is no first aid provision at my company?

    The Health and Safety Executive will prosecute a company that shows disregard for first aid provision in the workplace. Contact your UNISON safety rep or steward if you feel there is a lack of first aid provision in your workplace.

  • Who is my first aider?

    Ask your employer who your first aider is for your building or floor. There may not be a trained first aider, but there should be an appointed person to take care of first aid issues.