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.
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.
- 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.