As a business owner, the welfare of your staff will naturally be a key concern. Health and safety is just one of many concerns for small businesses, both in terms protecting employees and complying with the law.
The government’s Health and Safety Regulations state that employers must provide “adequate and appropriate” equipment that ensures injured employees can be treated immediately if they have an accident or feel ill. The regulations apply to businesses of every size, even if you have fewer than five employees, so this means you need to have First Aid Kits available to treat staff injuries and illnesses.
How do you decide what your first aid kit should contain?
It’s important to note straight away that there are no legal guidelines dictating the equipment your first aid kit must contain, only that you should have one.
Any decision regarding the contents of your kit will be drawn from your assessment of your business. Essentially, you must decide what is “adequate and appropriate” for your business. This will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of your business, potential hazards and the size of your workforce.
Possible injury risks include:
- Using chemicals
- Operating machinery
- Working with electricity
- Manual handling tasks
- Slip or trip hazards
- Working at height
- Working with/around vehicles
You don’t need to write your findings down or present them in any formal way. However, there are advantages to doing so, as you will have a record to show any inspector from your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive that you are aware of issues around the provision of first aid.
So what are the essentials?
Regardless of the outcome of your assessment, there are some items that every business needs. Your first-aiders will primarily be dealing with minor injuries, or keeping the seriously hurt as stable as possible until the emergency services arrive.
The list below contains the basic items your first aid kit should contain in order to accomplish this goal. From start-ups and small businesses to established global companies, it is advisable that every business in the UK has these items available to assist anyone who has an accident or is taken ill on your premises.
- Advice leaflet
- Eye pads
- Safety pins
- Medical tape
- Disposable gloves
- Cleansing wipes
Note that drugs and medicines are not on the list, as these are not required in the first aid kit. Any medicines your business requires should be stored separately.
Who will administer first aid?
It’s all very well having a first aid kit on your premises, but do you know who is best placed to use it? Your workplace assessment will lead you to a conclusion about how many qualified first aiders you need, or indeed whether a specific first-aider is needed at all.
If you elect to have first aiders in your business, they will need the appropriate training. Appropriate nationally-recognised qualifications include First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificates, while there might also be other courses that relate specifically to what your business does. Ensure you choose an accredited training provider when sending staff on these courses.
There are circumstances where you may feel a designated first aider is not necessary. For example, if your company works out of one small office, you may decide the potential hazards are minimal enough that any potential injuries can be self-treated. Your premises might also be located near a medical facility, meaning you have easy access to assistance if required.
If you choose not to have a qualified first aider on site, you should still appoint one or more responsible staff members to look after the contents of your first aid kit. Someone needs to ensure it contains all the equipment you’ve decided you need, and the kit must also be restocked when needed. It is also advisable to have someone who is in charge of calling the emergency services if required.
Some businesses choose to have a designated room in which first aid can be carried out. This may be a useful, practical option for newer businesses. Your premises are likely to be smaller, so it will be easier to transfer the injured person to this area and move them away from the main work area. Of course, if a person is seriously hurt it might not be possible to move them.
What about first aid for non-employees?
While the law does not require businesses to provide first aid for non-employees, such as visitors or maintenance workers from an external company, the Health & Safety Executive highly recommends that you do so.
Leaving the law to one side, the reputational damage to your business if someone is injured on your premises and not given the help they need far outweighs any compliance issues. This is particularly true when your business is not yet established – you really don’t want something like this to be the first reason people here about your company.
Of course, you could also argue that there is a moral obligation here as well!
Make the right call
You can see that when it comes to first aid, a lot of the decisions fall on you as the business owner. You have the power to make responsible decisions that will benefit your staff in an emergency and ensure your first aid kit is ready for anything your work environment can throw at you.
For help on other Health & Safety legislation and what you need to do to stay on the right side of the law, read these guides;
- What the change in Health & Safety regulations from 1 Oct 2015 means for the self-employed
- Health & Safety compliance for small businesses – where do you start?
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by James Riches from Imperative Training the largest independent first aid training provider in the UK.
More help on complying with small business laws
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