When it comes to first aid in the workplace, the same principles apply to small businesses with only a few employees, as they do to companies with a bigger workforce spread across multiple locations.
In both instances, there must be plans in place to ensure the day-to-day working operation complies with health and safety regulations, protecting employees from possible injuries and reacting to sudden illness.
By law, every company in the UK must have an appropriately stocked first aid kit. While it is not a legal requirement that every company must have trained first aiders among its workforce, it is highly recommended.
Consider the risks to staff in your business
A low-risk workplace may only require an appointed first aider whose sole responsibility is restocking company first aid kit(s) as needed and dealing with minor accidents.
However, a thorough workplace assessment may show that riskier environments, such as a factory where workers are surrounded by moving vehicles and heavy machinery, need a first aider with a formal qualification.
Whatever the size of business, it makes sense to have a trained first aid officer on your work premises, just in case. You would rather have someone who is confident carrying out potentially life-saving treatments properly, than someone who is unsure and doing the wrong thing.
Let’s look at why first aid training is so important at work, starting with figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which outline the worst-case scenario for any employer.
It’s in your interest to ensure the safety of employees
Statistics from the HSE show why the right health and safety provisions should always be in place. Its Labour Force Survey revealed that there were an estimated 611,000 workplace injuries during 2014/15 in the UK.
Over half of the 142 fatal injuries reported under HSE’s RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) were caused by falls from height, collisions with vehicles or being struck by moving objects.
Additionally, a total of 27.3 million working days were lost in the UK during 2014/15 due to work-related illness and workplace injury, while there was an estimated cost of £14.3 billion to the UK economy from illness or injury at work.
These figures certainly underline the importance of ensuring employee well-being is catered for, whether that’s preventative measures such as protection from hazards or reactive approaches to accidents.
You don’t want to fall foul of Health and Safety law
There is plenty of legislation relating to the protection of employees.
The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 places a duty on all employers to assess and manage risks to employees from work activities. It sets out guidelines for employers to follow, which ensures they abide by certain duties towards employees and the general public.
Further legislation, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, is in place. This particular law relating the workplace protection places a duty on all UK employers to assess and manage any risks to their employees and other parties from activities occurring on premises.
You can find more details in of your Health and Safety responsibilities in these guides;
- Health & Safety compliance for small businesses – where do you start?
- What the change in Health & Safety regulations from 1 Oct 2015 means for the self-employed
If you are unsure, a risk assessment should be conducted. The findings will ensure you operate in line with government legislation.
And don’t forget, that if you employ anybody, even if its just occasional part-time help, you are legally required to have employers liability insurance. The fines for not having a suitable policy in place are huge, so it’s not something to forget.
Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment
A risk assessment helps your business understand what might cause harm to employees and if you are doing enough to guard against potential hazards. An assessment will help the business:
- Look for trip or slip hazards, uneven floors, loose cables, etc
- Decide who might be at risk, such as employees, visitors, etc
- Outline any precautions to take
It will help you outline the risk control measures you need to put in place that will ensure the safety of employees. A regular risk assessment should be undertaken to ensure precautions are in line with any changes that occur to the workspace – download the HSEs hazard spotting checklist.
Where can businesses get first aid training?
If following the initial assessment, it’s decided that a trained first aider is needed, you should send a designated person or persons on an accredited training course. There, they can pick up the knowledge and practical skills required to be able to administer a high level of immediate first aid care.
Appropriate and accredited qualifications are available, including the Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) and First Aid at Work (FAW), while there are also specialised courses which relate specifically to the area a business operates in.
In addition to administering on-the-spot treatment, a first aider, whether fully trained or not, will be responsible for:
- Reporting and keeping records of accidents
- Managing the basic workplace first aid amenities
- Consulting and updating the workforce
- Arranging employers’ liability insurance
- Liaising with the HSE
It’s important therefore, that the designated first aider completely understands their responsibilities.
What if you don’t comply with the law?
We’ve already seen the importance of ensuring you create a safe working environment for your employees in the HSE’s accident and death statistics.
With those figures in mind, it’s clear that non-compliance with health and safety regulations poses a risk to employees and visitors who are on company premises, but did you know there are also penalties that can be administered by the HSE?
The fines vary in severity depending on the type of offence, and can be administered if a company is found to be in breach of any of the guidelines set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Taking steps to protect employees
All companies should assess workplace risks and try to control things such as slips and trips, however, 100 percent eradication of accidents is almost impossible.
Having an accredited first aider is one way of not only minimising risk through preventative action, but also ensuring the company is in a position to react properly when there is an incident that requires medical attention.
About the author
David Howarth is the Chief Executive at Imperative Training, which has grown from a bedroom-based enterprise in 2003, to be the largest independent first-aid training provider in the UK.
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