Know What First Aid Materials Your Workplace Needs

First aid materials, equipment and facilities

When the assessment of first-aid requirements has been completed, the employer should provide the materials, equipment and facilities needed to make sure that the level of cover identified as necessary will be available to employees at all relevant times. This will include ensuring that first-aid equipment, suitably marked and easily accessible, is available in all places where working conditions require it. First-aid containers, The minimum level of first-aid equipment is a suitably stocked and properly identified first-aid container. Every employer should provide for each work site at least one first-aid container supplied with a sufficient quantity of first-aid materials suitable for the particular circumstances.

Depending on the findings of the first-aid needs assessment, more than one first-aid container might be required on large sites. First-aid containers should be easily accessible and preferably placed near to hand-washing facilities. They should only be stocked with items useful for giving first aid and should be protected from dust and damp. All first-aid containers should be identified by a white cross on a green background. The contents of first-aid containers should be examined frequently and restocked soon after use. Sufficient supplies should be held in stock on site. Care should be taken to dispose of items safely once they reach their expiry date.

Additional first-aid materials and equipment, The needs assessment may indicate that additional materials and equipment are required, for example foil blankets, disposable aprons and individually wrapped moist wipes. They may be kept in the first-aid container if there is room, or stored separately. Other pieces of equipment may include adhesive hypoallergenic micro-porous tape, shears capable of cutting through clothing and sterile disposable tweezers. If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9% w/v) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. Once the seal has been broken, containers should not be kept for reuse. Containers should not be used beyond their expiry date.

There may be a need for items such as protective equipment in case first- aiders have to enter dangerous atmospheres, or calcium gluconate for the management of hydrofluoric acid burns. Such items should be stored securely near the first-aid container, in the first-aid room or in the hazard area, as appropriate. Access to them should be restricted to people trained in their use.

Tablets and medication

First aid at work does not include giving tablets or medicines to treat illness. The only exception to this is where aspirin is used as first aid to a casualty with a suspected heart attack in accordance with currently accepted first-aid practice. It is recommended that tablets and medicines should not be kept in the first-aid container. Some workers carry their own medication that has been prescribed by their doctor (eg an inhaler for asthma). If an individual needs to take their own prescribed medication, the first-aider’s role is generally limited to helping them do so and contacting the emergency services, as appropriate. Automated external defibrillators, Where an employer decides to provide a defibrillator in the workplace, those who may need to use it should be trained (see ‘Further information’). Training can provide additional knowledge and skills and may promote greater confidence in the use of a defibrillator.

Travelling first-aid kits, Employers should consider issuing these types of kits to all mobile members of staff or, alternatively, placing them in vehicles used by mobile members of staff for business purposes. Depending on the needs assessment, you should also consider whether these employees undergo a course of instruction in emergency first aid at work, particularly if they are involved in higher-hazard activities. Suitable arrangements should be in place for restocking kits.

First-aid rooms

Employers should provide a suitable first-aid room or rooms where the assessment of first-aid needs identifies this as necessary. The first-aid room(s) should contain essential first-aid facilities and equipment, be easily accessible to stretchers and be clearly signposted and identified. If possible, the room(s) should be reserved exclusively for giving first aid. A first-aid room will usually be necessary where there are higher hazards such as in chemical industries or on large construction sites, and in larger premises at a distance from medical services. A designated person should be given responsibility for supervising it. The room(s) should be clearly signposted and identified by white lettering or symbols on a green background.

First-aid rooms should: be large enough to hold an examination/medical couch, with enough space at each side for people to work, a chair and any necessary additional equipment; have washable surfaces and adequate heating, ventilation and lighting; be kept clean, tidy, accessible and available for use at all times when employees are at work: be positioned as near as possible to a point of access for transport to hospital; display a notice on the door advising of the names, locations and, if appropriate, telephone extensions of first-aiders and how to contact them. Typical examples of the equipment and facilities a first-aid room may contain are: a sink with hot and cold running water; drinking water with disposable cups; soap and paper towels; a store for first-aid materials; foot-operated refuse containers, lined with disposable, yellow clinical waste bags or a container suitable for the safe disposal of clinical waste; an examination/medical couch with waterproof protection and clean pillows and blankets (a paper couch roll may be used that is changed between casualties); a chair; a telephone or other communication equipment; a record book for recording incidents attended by a first-aider or appointed person.

If the first-aid room(s) cannot be reserved exclusively for giving first aid, employers need to make sure that the first-aid facilities can be made available quickly if necessary. For example, they should consider the implications of whether: the activities usually carried out in the room can be stopped immediately in an emergency; the furnishings and equipment can be moved easily and quickly to a position that will not interfere with giving first aid; the storage arrangements for first-aid furnishings and equipment allow them to be made available quickly when necessary.