The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 came into effect in July 1982 and apply to all persons at work in the UK. The Regulations do not apply to non-employees however most employers recognise that First Aiders have a “duty of care” and so will be obligated to treat fellow employees and visitors, contractors, guests, etc. alike.
The Regulations require the provision of equipment and facilities that are ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’ suggesting a need for employer interpretation based on the potential for accident and injury on the premises. Several factors will determine the extent of the need for first aid provision, including:
- The number of employees normally at work on the premises;
- The nature of the hazards present, and the potential for serious injury from the activities typically carried out within the establishment;
- The extent and geographical layout of the buildings on the site;
- The proximity to the premises of local hospital accident and emergency facilities;
- Past experience of injuries and first aid needs.
The Approved Code of Practice produced with the Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations was revised in 1997 and sets out in detail what level of first aid provision is necessary. Basically, a minimum of one qualified First Aider for every 50 employees is required unless the risks of serious injury are great, in which case the ratio may need to be increased to ensure that there is adequate cover. Premises where machines, power tools or hazardous chemical substances are used will therefore need a greater level of provision than lower risk establishments such as offices or schools.
Any provision of staff trained in first aid should take into account foreseeable absences from duty so that the standard of first aid cover can be maintained during alternating shift patterns, staff holidays, sickness, etc. It is never possible to cover every eventuality, but reasonable efforts must be made to comply with the standards laid down by the Code of Practice.
In smaller establishments where there are fewer than 50 employees and where the risks of serious injury are relatively low, there is no specific requirement to have a qualified First Aider and an Appointed Person may suffice, although the decision not to have a fully qualified First Aider would have to be justified if an employee was injured.
The table below, compiled using information from the Health & Safety Executive, gives an indication of the number of First Aiders required in the work place;
The numbers given in this table are the minimum requirements. Each employer must then add First Aiders to take account of the following;
- Foreseeable absences – Cover should remain adequate even when First Aiders are absent e.g. annual leave, department / office transfers, long term sickness, etc.
- Shift Work – Every shift should be adequately covered.
- Large Sites – First Aiders should be in close proximity to all areas.
- Isolated Work Locations – Cover should be provided as necessary.