Guidance for First Aid Kits in the Workplace

November 15, 2016
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Depending on what industry your business is in, work activities could pose a risk of causing injury or illness to people. Although this should be prevented by implementing control measures, sometimes accidents do slip through the cracks.

First aid kits should be fully stocked and readily available on site at all times to treat superficial injuries that don’t require emergency attention.

first aid kit contents

First aid arrangements are legally required in all businesses. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 (as amended) require all employers to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment so that employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work. Therefore, you should understand what the legal requirements are of first aid kits.

How Many First Aid Kits Do I Need?

The amount required will vary from business to business; it is dependent on your first aid risk assessment findings. A first aid risk assessment should be carried out by the employer or a competent person to whom they have delegated the task.

Factors that will help you determine the number of kits needed include:

  • The amount of employees on the premises – the higher the number of employees, the more first aid kits required.
  • The amount, size, and complexity of floors – you should have at least one on every floor where employees work. Where floors are large in size, you should have one at each end. If they are particularly complex in layout, you should have several throughout, located at various visible locations.
  • The level of risk the work activities in your business pose – an office is much lower risk than a manufacturing premises, for example. You’ll usually only need one for each floor in an office but in a manufacturing premises you’ll require more than one throughout the floor, even if it’s small.

first aid kit giving aid bandage

Take all these factors into account to help determine how many you need, as well as the information in the next section, which will ensure everyone in your business receives immediate first aid treatment if required.

What Size First Aid Kit Do I Need?

There are many different sizes of first aid kits. The one you need depends on the number of employees in your business and the level of risk work activities pose. For example:

Low risk businesses e.g. offices, libraries, schools, and low-risk retail shops, e.g. newsagents and clothing outlets.

  • Small size kit: less than 25 employees.
  • Medium size kit: 25-100 employees.
  • 1 large kit per 100 employees: more than 100 employees.

High risk businesses e.g. engineering, warehousing, chemical manufacture, or any business that requires employees to work with dangerous machinery or sharp instruments.

  • Small size kit: less than 5 employees.
  • Medium size kit: 5-25 employees
  • 1 large kit per 25 employees: more than 25 employees.

Each kit will have the necessary amount of each item to accommodate the number of employees for which it’s designed.

Be sure that the kit you’re using complies with the British Standard BS 8599-1. This ensures that the kit contains suitable equipment that is safe and hygienic for use.

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Where Should First Aid Kits Be Located?

There is no specific location first aid kits should be, as this depends on the layout of the premises and your risk assessment findings. You may notice, for example, that certain areas of the same floor are higher risk and therefore require having more kits or keeping them closer.

You should ensure that the location it is kept in:

  • Is easily accessible.
  • Is clearly visible.
  • Has a ‘first aid kit’ sign nearby.

Kits could be kept on a countertop or mounted to the wall in a kit or cabinet. But keep in mind that if a kit is mounted to the wall it will be more difficult to take the necessary items to an injured individual if they can’t go themselves.

first aid kit on wall

Also keep in mind nearby work activities or equipment: keep the kit away from any areas that might affect the integrity of the box or the materials and substances inside the kit, e.g. work activities that create debris or high-temperature environments.

What Should I Put Inside My First Aid Kit?

There is no mandatory list of items to put in a first aid box – it largely depends on what you determine are the needs of your business during a risk assessment. Usually, if you purchase a first aid kit from a reputable source that complies with the British Standard it will already contain everything you need.

You may want to add additional items depending on your risk assessment findings, e.g. if there is a high risk of burns you should include burn relief dressing and creams.

traditional first aid kit contents

It is recommended that your box includes some or all of the following:

  • A leaflet that provides general guidance on first aid.
  • Individually wrapped, sterile, waterproof plasters of assorted sizes (include hypoallergenic ones if necessary).
  • Sterile eye pad.
  • Individually wrapped, sterile, waterproof triangular bandages.
  • Safety pins.
  • Individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings of assorted sizes.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Alcohol-free cleansing wipes.
  • Skin rash cream, such as hydrocortisone or calendula.
  • Cream or spray for insect bites and stings.
  • Antiseptic cream.
  • Distilled water for cleaning wounds.
  • Scissors

This list is not exhaustive; you can find a more comprehensive list of items that could be kept in your first aid kit in our Workplace First Aid Box Checklist.

Remember: the items in a first aid kit have expiration dates, so check them regularly. You must discard and replace any that are out of date. Be sure to take them to your local chemist to dispose of them safely. Also, remember to replace anything that is used; if you use something from the first aid kit, let your workplace’s responsible person know, so they can re-stock the kit.

If you follow all the guidance given throughout this article, your workplace will be fully prepared to provide first aid to those that incur an injury while at work. You will ensure that people can properly protect wounds and properly treat pain and discomfort so they can continue their work activities comfortably and safely.

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