Frequently Asked Questions

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Health & Safety is a minefield of regulations and buzzwords that anybody new to the subject can find confusing and difficult to grasp. We have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions and resources to help. We hope you find it useful.

What is my first step in compliance with the Health & Safety & First Aid at Work regulations?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and people so your employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work.

What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in your workplace and you should first carry out a risk assessment to identify what your first-aid needs are.

The minimum first-aid provision on any work site is:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements
  • provide information for employees about first-aid arrangements
How do i carry out a risk / needs assessment?

There is no set way of undertaking a risk assessment but the simplest and most straightforward way is to consider following the five steps in our leaflet: Five steps to risk assessment .

  • Identify the hazards
  • Decide who might be harmed and how
  • Evaluate the risks and decide on precaution
  • Record your findings and implement them
  • Review your assessment and update if necessary
The HSE publication: Five steps to risk assessment describes each of these steps in simple terms. It will help you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace.

The HSE also have a number of example risk assessments on their website which show you what a completed risk assessment may look like for a range of different business types.

These examples can be used as a guide when completing your own. When thinking about recording your findings there is also a template which you can fill in to complete your risk assessment requirements.

If you work in a low risk office based environment you can complete your risk assessment quickly and easily by using HSE’s web-based tool. This allows you can select the risks and actions that are relevant for your workplace and then save and print your completed risk assessment.

Remember a risk assessment is only effective if you and your staff act on the findings. It is important you follow through with any actions required and review the assessment on a regular basis.

What is an appointed person?

When an employer's first-aid risk assessment identifies that a first-aider is not necessary, the minimum requirement is to appoint a person to take charge of first-aid arrangements. The role of this appointed person includes looking after the first-aid equipment and facilities and calling the emergency services when required. They can also provide emergency cover, within their role and competence, where a first-aider is absent due to unforeseen circumstances (annual leave does not count). see: appointed person training course.

Can appointed persons perform first aid?

Appointed persons are not first-aiders and should not attempt to give first aid for which they have not been trained.

What should a first-aid box in the workplace contain?

There is no mandatory list of contents for first-aid boxes and the HSE does not 'approve' or endorse particular products. Deciding what to include should be based on your assessment of first-aid needs. As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, a minimum stock is as follows:

  • a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid
  • 20 individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type
    of work (you can provide hypoallergenic plasters, if necessary);
  • two sterile eye pads;
  • four individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile;
  • six safety pins;
  • two large, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings;
  • six medium-sized, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings;
  • a pair of disposable gloves.
How often should the contents of first-aid boxes be replaced?

Although there is no specified review timetable, many items, particularly sterile ones, are marked with expiry dates. They should be replaced by the dates given and expired items disposed of safely. In cases where sterile items have no dates, it would be advisable to check with the manufacturers to find out how long they can be kept. For non-sterile items without dates, it is a matter of judgment, based on whether they are fit for purpose.

What first-aid equipment should be provided?

Once an assessment of first-aid needs has been carried out, the findings can be used to decide what first-aid equipment should be provided in the workplace. The minimum requirement is a suitably stocked first-aid box.

The assessment may indicate that additional materials and equipment are required such as scissors, adhesive tape, disposable aprons and individually wrapped moist wipes.

They may be put in the first-aid box or stored separately. If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one lit re of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9%) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. When the seal has been broken, containers should not be reused. Containers should not be used beyond their expiry date.

Do I need to make first aid provision for members of the public?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 do not specifically require employers to provide first aid for members of the public. However, many organisations such as schools, places of entertainment, fairgrounds, offices and shops provide a service for others.

The HSE strongly recommends that employers include the public in their first-aid needs assessment and make provision for them.

How many first-aiders do I need?

The findings of your first-aid needs assessment will help you decide how many first-aiders are required. There are no hard and fast rules on exact numbers and you will need to take into account all the relevant circumstances of your particular workplace.

The table in the HSE's leaflet First aid at work: your questions answered, provides general guidance on how many first-aiders or appointed persons might be needed.

Do I need to record incidents requiring the attention of a first-aider?

It is good practice to provide your first-aiders and appointed persons with a book in which to record incidents they attend. The information can help you identify accident trends and possible areas for improvement in the control of health and safety risks. It can be used for reference in future first-aid needs assessments. The record book is not the same as the statutory accident book though the two might be combined.

Employers, self-employed people and those in control of premises have a duty to report some accidents and incidents at work under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

More information can be found in the HSE's leaflet: Incident at Work?
What information should be recorded?

Useful information to record includes:

  • the date, time and place of the incident;
  • the name and job of the injured or ill person;
  • details of the injury/illness and what first aid was given;
  • details about what happened to the person immediately afterwards (eg went back to work, went home, went to hospital); and
  • the name and signature of the first-aider or person dealing with the incident.
Who is responsible for keeping the records?

It is usually the first-aider or appointed person who looks after the book. However, employers have overall responsibility.

What information do i need to provide about first aid arrangements?

You have to inform your employees of the first-aid arrangements. Putting up notices telling staff who and where the first-aiders or appointed persons are and where the first-aid box is will usually be enough.

You will need to make special arrangements to give first-aid information to employees with reading or language difficulties.

All first-aid boxes should have a white cross on a green background. Similarly, first-aid rooms should be easily identifiable by white lettering or a white cross on a green background and all signs should be placed where they can be seen (not obstructed from view) and easily identified.

NOTE: These are not hard and fast rules, however, as much of the information was obtained from the HSE website we believe that the advice given is accurate - if you are unsure about anything please check with the Health & Safety Executive.