Updated: August 2014

The Law - Health and Safety First Aid Regulations 1981     
These regulations place a duty on employers to make adequate first aid provision for their employees, in case they become ill or injured at work. The associated Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) expands on this, giving details of what is classed as adequate.

The regulations themselves are very general and the main provisions are contained within regulations 3 and 4:
• Regulation 3 (1) requires provision of 'such equipment and facilities as are adequate and appropriate in the circumstances for enabling first-aid to be rendered to his employees if they are injured or become ill at work.'

• Regulation 3 (2) requires provision of an adequate number of trained personnel to render this first-aid. If there is shift work or out of hours working, your employer should ensure there are enough first-aiders to provide cover for all the hours in which your work place operates.

• Regulation 3 (3) allows for competent persons to cover for temporary and exceptional absences of trained first-aiders.  These are known as 'Appointed Persons'. An appointed person should be able to take charge when someone is injured or falls ill, and call an ambulance, if required, and keep stock of the first aid box and replenish supplies when needed.

• Regulation 4 requires employers to inform their employees of the arrangements made for first-aid, including the location of equipment, facilities and personnel. There should be notices telling employees who the first aiders are and where they can be found, as well as where the nearest first aid box is located. Your employer should also make special arrangements for workers who have reading or language difficulties.

What is a First-Aider?
A first-aider is someone who has undergone a training course in administering first aid and holds a current first aid-at-work certificate. Sometimes more than one is needed and they can also take on the role of the appointed person in some cases.

Number of First Aiders
There are no set limits for numbers - this must be decided after considering:
     • the nature of work and levels of risk involved;
     • the size and location of workplace and distance from medical facilities;
     • the hours of work

However, the ACoP suggests that the number should never be less than 1 trained first aider for every 50 employees. Where shiftwork or long hours are worked, adequate cover must be provided throughout the working period. To be classed as a trained first aider, they must have undertaken a course approved by the HSE, and any necessary refresher training.

Where there are specific hazards, which are outside of the normal approved syllabus, it is the employers responsibility to ensure that necessary additional training and facilities are available.  Examples are a danger of poisoning by certain substances, burns from hydrofluoric acid or the need for oxygen as an adjunct to resuscitation.

Appointed persons are not required to have any formal first aid training - though it is a good idea for them to have received training in emergency first aid procedures.   The ACoP makes it quite clear that foreseeable absences, such as planned annual leave, do not qualify as 'exceptional and temporary circumstances' under regulation 3(3).

First Aid Boxes, Kits and Rooms
The ACoP and Guidance contains clear details of what should be contained within first aid kits.  It also lays down when employers should consider provision of a first aid room, and the additional equipment that this would require.

Although different working environments have different needs, the minimum first aid provision in any work site should include:
     • A suitably stocked and maintained first aid box which, though it can differ from workplace to workplace, should include at least: two dozen wrapped sterile adhesive dressings in assorted sizes, two sterile eye pads, four individually wrapped triangular bandages, six safety pins, six medium sized and two large sized individually wrapped sterile un-medicated wound dressings and a pair of disposable gloves.

• An appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements
• Around the clock quick access to the first aid equipment and a person who can administer first aid as accidents can happen at any time

by Dennis Mac (IOSH accredited Unite Safety Rep, retired)
Reference: "First aid at work - The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 - Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (L74)" ; United Kingdom Health and Safety Commission, ISBN 0717610500

Statute Links:
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 - Approved Code of Practice - purchase or free download, below

Accidents and First Aid - NHS
Basic Advice on First Aid at Work - HSE
British Red Cross
First Aid at Work HSE Home Page
First Aid Legislation
First Aid at Work: Your questions answered - HSE (pdf)
First Aid Training - First Aid Guidelines - firstaidtraining.org.uk
Frequently Asked Questions: Appointed persons, Cyanide poisoning, Defibrillators, Electric shock,
First aid box, First aid equipment, First aid for the public, First aid for travelling, remote and lone workers,
First aid in schools, First aid rooms, First aid signs, First aiders, Hydrofluoric acid poisoning, Infection, Insurance, Oxygen administration, Record keeping, Tablets and medication
St. Andrews First Aid - Keeping Scotland Safe
St.John Ambulance
Training - Get Approved Training - HSE
The Merck Manual - Online Medical Library

Downloads:   (use "Save Target As" in IE or "Save Link As" in Firefox for PDF files)
Basic Advice on First Aid at Work - HSE INDG 347 (pdf)
Blood-borne viruses in the workplace - HSE INDG342 (pdf)
First Aid at Work: Your questions answered - HSE INDG214 (pdf)
The Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 - Approved Code of Practice - HSE (pdf)