A Guide to First Aid Requirements in the Workplace

Introduction

First aid is the immediate care given to a person suffering from an injury or illness. It could help someone recover more quickly and can even save lives. But how do you implement first aid in the workplace? In this article, we’ll first outline the work health and safety responsibilities of employers and employees. Then, we’ll discuss how to determine your first aid requirements in the workplace. Finally, we’ll provide a checklist to ensure that your first aid provisions are adequate.

Who has health and safety duties?

Person conducting a business or undertaking 

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has the primary duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS). First aid covers the first steps to help an injured or sick person and in some cases could mean the difference between life and death. A PCBU must provide:

  • First aid equipment for the workplace
  • Access to the first aid equipment for each worker
  • Access to facilities for the administration first aid
  • An adequate number of trained first aiders or access to other persons trained to provide first aid treatment.

Where there are multiple businesses sharing a workplace, first aiders and first aid facilities may be shared.

Workers’ responsibilities

Workers have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and to not adversely affect other workers’ health and safety. They must comply with reasonable first aid instructions and to cooperate with health and safety policies. For example, it is an expectation that workers would follow the first aid procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses.

How to determine first aid requirements for your workplace

As a PCBU, it is important to understand the first aid needs of your workers before making any decisions about first aid equipment, facilities and trained first aiders. Since all workplaces are different, you must consider input from workers to improve your decision-making about health and safety matters. 

In determining a workplace’s first aid needs, the WHS legislation requires that a PCBU must consider the following:

  • The nature of the work
  • The nature of hazards at the workplace
  • The size and location of the workplace, and
  • The number and composition of workers and other persons at the workplace.

Determining the first aid requirements of your workplace and your workers can be a difficult process. Therefore, it is best to contact a workplace safety lawyer for advice in developing safety protocols, procedures and policies.

First aid checklist  

1. First aid kit

Firstly, all workers must have access to a first aid kit. The kit should be in an accessible location and/or close to areas where there is higher risk of injury or illness. In addition, it should include basic equipment for administering injuries including cuts, sprains, minor burns, wounds, broken bones, eye injuries and shock. Each kit should also be large enough to contain the equipment, be easily identifiable, include a list of the kit’s contents and be made out of durable material. 

It is required that a person, usually a first aider, be nominated to maintain the first aid kit. This includes monitoring the usage, the replacement of items and carrying out regular checks to ensure that items are in working order. 

2. Other first aid equipment 

As well as first aid kits, it is important to consider other first aid equipment to treat workplace injuries and illnesses. As previously mentioned, all workplaces are different and are therefore subject to different risks. Other first aid equipment and facilities may include:

  • An automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Eyewash and shower equipment
  • Asthma-relieving inhalers and spacers
  • Epinephrine auto-injectors (such as an EpiPen) 
  • First aid rooms 

3. First aiders

First aiders must hold a recognised qualification issued by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for the nationally endorsed first aid unit of competency or a course providing equivalent skills. Higher levels of risk in the workplace may require additional training. For example, where there are risks from dangerous substances such as cyanide or arsenic. 

First aiders should attend training on a regular basis to revise their knowledge and skills. First aid qualifications should be renewed every three years and training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be completed annually. 

4. First aid procedures 

Implementing first aid procedures ensures that workers have a clear understanding of the first aid requirements. The procedure should include:

  • The location of first aid kits and first aid facilities
  • The person who is responsible for the first aid kits and how frequently they should be maintained
  • Instructions and training on first aid arrangements
  • The communication and equipment systems to be used, especially when first aid is required in remote locations
  • How to report injuries and illnesses at the workplace 
  • Precautions to avoid exposure to blood and body substances 
  • Access to debriefing or counselling services after a serious workplace incident 
  • A record of first aid treatment given

5. First aid information 

Finally, workers should be updated with any information relating to their health and safety at work. A First Aid Policy should set out the first aid procedures and the obligations of a company and its employees. The information should be accessible and easy to understand. A PCBU should provide this information as part of a workers’ induction training and to update workers when there are changes to any first aid requirements. 

Conclusion

As discussed, it is important that all workplaces have access to first aid equipment and facilities. As a business owner, it is your legal duty to create a safe working environment which includes the implementation of first aid provisions. Whether you are trying to understand the scope of your obligations or determining your workplace’s first aid requirements, it is best to seek legal assistance before making any big decisions.

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