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What is the legal requirement for first aid at work?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and people to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

To work out how many first aiders you need and what type of training they require you will need to carry out a first aid needs assessment.

First Aid Needs Assessments

Conducting a first aid needs assessment will identify what type of first aid training your first aiders will need, how many first aiders you need and where they should be located.

There is no requirement for the assessment of first aid needs to be formal or written down although it may be useful for employers to record the results and employers might need to justify their level of first-aid provision.

How much first-aid provision an employer has to make depends on the circumstances of each workplace.

The First Aid at Work Guidelines for Employers from the Health and Safety Executive were last updated on 1st October 2009 and contain more detail, you can download the full HSE guidance on First Aid at Work regulations here, or at the bottom of this article. There are now two levels of workplace first aider making it necessary to carry out this assessment to ensure that you provide the correct type of first aider(s) :

Emergency First Aider at Work (EFAW) - 1 day course
First Aider at Work (FAW) - 3 day course

A first aid needs assessment should consider the following:

  • the nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks
  • the size of the organisation
  • the nature of the workforce e.g. are there any employees with disabilities or particular health problems?
  • the organisation's history of accidents
  • the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers
  • work patterns
  • the distribution of the workforce
  • the remoteness of the site from emergency medical services
  • employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites
  • annual leave and other absences of first aiders and appointed person
  • first-aid provision for non-employees

Suggested Numbers of First Aid Personnel

This table shows the suggested numbers of first aid personnel to be available at all times people are at work.


First Aid at Work Case Studies

Case Study 1

An accountancy company have 25 employees in an office. Manual work is limited to employees lifting small boxes. The hours of work are 9 to 5.

Having considered the possible illness and injuries that could occur, the company decided to provide 1 day Emergency First Aid at Work training for their first aiders. To ensure that cover was provided at all times the company trained 2 emergency first aiders. The holiday rota system was adjusted so that only one first aider could book annual leave at a time.

Case Study 2

A school has a total of 40 teaching staff and pupils aged from 11 - 18yrs. The staff are all young, fit and healthy. Some of the children suffer from asthma and staff regularly takes groups of children away on field trips.

To fulfil their first aid at work obligations the school decides to train 3 members of staff with Emergency First Aid at Work to ensure cover at all times.

The school is very conscientious and understands that they have a duty of care to all their children and also any visiting adults so they decide to run a basic first aid course on their next whole school inset day to ensure that everyone has the essential life saving first aid skills and knows how to manage illness.

They also send a couple of the geography teachers, who run field trips and the Duke of Edinburgh's Expeditions away on a specialist Outdoor First Aid training course and the Sports teacher and rugby coach on a Sports First Aid course. Specialist courses outside the field of First Aid at Work are regulated through the Qualifications and Curriculum authority.

Case Study 3

A retail store identified different areas of risk in different areas of the workplace. The company identified that the office area only required EFAW first aiders, but reviewing the accident records they identified that slips and trips had occurred in the store and a customer suffered a severe asthma attack last year.

The company felt that they assumed a duty of care when customers were on their premises so they decided to provide the 3 day First Aid at Work training course for their first aiders. This ensured that the first aiders were trained to deal with the possible injuries and illness that could occur in the store and also provided adequate cover for the office.

To cover shifts and foreseeable absences, the company decided to train 3 first aiders on each shift.

Case Study 4

A call centre employs 450 staff in a 10 storey office building.

Health & Safety Executive advice recommends 1 First Aid at Work first aider per 100 employees (or part thereof) in a low hazard workplace, which required at least 5 first aiders on duty at all times.

The company decided to train 1 first aider on each floor (10 in total) which ensured that cover was available for foreseeable absences and the first aiders would be distributed evenly throughout the building should an incident occur.

The same call centre expanded and employed a further 250 employees to work on an evening shift in the same building. An extra 5 first aiders were trained to cover this shift, they are spread over several floors but are in close proximity to where people work.

Case Study 5

An electrical contracting company have a team of 20 electricians who work mainly on building sites, but sometimes they work for domestic clients. The electricians work in pairs. When the electricians work on building sites, the main building contractor always assumes responsibility for first aid provision and this is documented in writing.

The company decided that due to the risk of electrical shock, electrical burns, slips, trips and manual handling injuries they would provide full 3 day First Aid at Work training for all staff. This ensured that they could send any electrician to any job without pre-arranging that first aid cover would be provided by the customer. The company provided a first aid kit in each company van and all the staff had access to a mobile phone which ensured that they would be able to call emergency services wherever they were working.

You can download a set of HSE First aid needs assessment case studies here.

HSE First Aid at Work Resources

The HSE website is the best source of information to answer all your first aid at work replated questions. There is a free HSE leaflet, which contains a useful checklist covering the points employers should consider when carrying out the assessment which you can download from the HSE website here:

You can download the full HSE L74 guidance on the Health and Safety (First Aid ) Reulations 1981 below.


HSE First Aid at Work Guidance L74 - 3rd edition reissued with amendments 2018

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