What’s in your first aid kit?
There is no longer a mandatory minimum requirement for first aid kit contents. The contents should be determined by a first aid needs assessment, this enables organisations to include different contents for local risks and provide more effective first aid in the workplace.
Employers may wish to refer to the national standard, BS 8599–1:2011 Workplace First Aid Kits. Specification for the Contents of Workplace First Aid Kits for guidance and best practice.
Typical contents will include:
- Individually-wrapped sterile plasters
- Sterile eye pads
- Individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile
- Safety pins
- Individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings (large and medium-sized)
- Disposable gloves, preferably latex free or nitrile (synthetic rubber), as latex can cause allergic reactions
- Scissors or shears
- Cleansing wipes
- A contents list (for restocking purposes)
- A first aid leaflet.
Painkillers and other medicines should not be kept in a first-aid kit.
First aid needs assessment and number of kits
How many first aiders or appointed persons are required depends on workplace circumstances. No fixed level is specified in the regulations and each employer must assess what facilities and personnel are appropriate for their needs. Employers may delegate the responsibility for carrying out the assessment to an occupational health service.
The size, number and placement of first aid kits will be determined by the assessment. To help inform the assessment, BS 8599-1:2011 provides guidance of the sizes and number of BS 8599 compliant kits recommended for low and high hazard areas. Boxes should be placed around the premises where they will be needed most and where they can be accessed easily.
What factors do we need to consider in the first aid needs assessment?
The first consideration will be the categories of hazard identified in the workplace environment. For example, businesses that deal with hazardous substances the safety data sheets may indicate the type of first aid response required for people exposed to the substance.
The remoteness from first aid emergency medical support will be a factor, especially as many local ambulance stations are being closed due to budget cuts. Examining the organisation’s history of accidents can be helpful in determining where first aiders should be located and what geographical area they should cover.
The needs of employees potentially at greater risk, such as young workers, trainees and people with certain disabilities, should also be addressed.
As a rule, the larger the workforce, the more first-aid provision is needed, but employee numbers should never be the sole basis for determining first-aid needs. Greater risks may exist when fewer people are at work, e.g. during maintenance.
How often should we replace first aid kit contents?
There is no set period by which first aid kit contents should be replaced, although some items within the box may have an expiry date. For sterile items that have no specific expiry date it is advisable to contact the manufacturer to ask how long they can be kept. Non-sterile items with no expiry date should be fit for purpose and replaced as a matter of judgement.