First Aid and the Law – a quick and easy guide for SMEs
First Aid for Life was founded by Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni, Emma Hammett, who is now a mentor on the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme. First Aid for Life is a fully regulated first aid training business with experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals, who tailor their training to the needs of the organization. They also have online courses, suitable for all businesses. Here Emma talks about first aid for SMEs…
As SME owners, we are ultimately responsible for all aspects of our businesses. Complying with health and safety and first aid legislation can be confusing and somewhat daunting.
Consequently, we have produced a clear guide to the most important elements of the First Aid at Work The Health and Safety Regulations 1981, outlining the key legal requirements and responsibilities that all businesses have to comply with, whether as sole traders or employers, to ensure they remain within the law.
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require all employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and suitably trained personnel. This is to ensure employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.
It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work itself, what’s important is that the worker receives immediate and appropriate attention and that an ambulance is called when necessary. First aid is of critical importance in saving lives and preventing minor injuries from becoming major ones.
Complying with the regulations to the best of your ability is both a legal imperative and demonstrates a duty of care for your staff, clients and customers.
How many first aiders do we need?
Businesses need to ensure that there is adequate provision of appropriately trained personnel to provide first aid cover for all working hours on all sites, based on individual businesses risk assessments (including cover for absence due to holidays, off-site trips, sickness and any other reason). Take a look at Appendix 3 of the latest HSE guidance for more information. The following is a brief overview:
- As a sole trader, you still need to make appropriate provision for first aid and ensure that there is a suitably stocked first aid kit, you are competent to use it and it is sensible to consider potential risks to your customers and clients too.
- For an employer with up to 20 employees in a low-risk environment, it is sufficient to have an Appointed Person qualification or other appropriate training to enable them to competently help in an emergency. This training can be practical or online.
- For a business with up to 50 employees in a low-risk environment, they should arrange for first aiders to attend regulated Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) training, tailored to the needs of employees and those they serve. This regulated training can be taken as practical training or enhanced blended learning, with up to a third of the theoretical elements online prior to the practical training.
- For larger businesses and those with a higher risk profile, it is necessary for first aiders to undertake a relevant three day First Aid at Work course. This too can be undertaken as blended learning, with one day pre-learning online and two days in the classroom. Re-qualification courses for those with an in-date FAW certificate, are two days. Certificates are valid for three years.
It is vital that all businesses ensure staff have
- undertaken suitable training
- have an appropriate and in-date first-aid qualification
- undertake regular refreshers to ensure the skills remain current and they remain competent to perform their first aid role.
Risk assessment for the workplace
All businesses (whether sole traders or employers) must undertake a full assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances (hazards and risks), number of employees and nature of the business, for each workplace. For smaller businesses, this does not necessarily need to be a written document.
Where work involves higher level hazards such as chemicals or dangerous machinery, or special hazards such as hydrofluoric acid or confined spaces, first aid requirements will be greater and specialist training will be needed.
Employers may then need to consider additional equipment, inform local emergency services, etc.
Risk assessment of workforce
Some workers may have additional specific health and safety risks. Young workers, trainees, pregnant workers and employees with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions, where known (e.g. asthma, diabetes, allergies, epilepsy or a history of heart disease), should be incorporated in the risk assessment, whilst ensuring full compliance with confidentiality and data protection.
First-aid provision for non-employees
Employers are not required by Health and Safety law to provide first aid for anyone other than their own employees. However, organisations, providing services for others are strongly recommended to include non-employees in their assessment of first-aid needs and make provision for them as an integral part of their duty of care. This may require first aiders to receive additional training above the legal minimum requirement so that they are able to act competently, for example, additional training in paediatric first aid if relevant to your customer base – such as a family restaurant.
All employers have duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) to report certain work-related injuries, cases of ill health and dangerous occurrences. The HSE will pass details onto the relevant enforcing authority. RIDDOR applies to all work activities but not all incidents are reportable.
It is also advised that employers have an accident report book in which they record all incidents, this must be stored in line with the Data Protection Act.
Good first aid training businesses should assist you to ascertain your first aid requirements and help you organise the most appropriate training for your organisation, tailoring and adding in extra elements if required.
HSE strongly recommends annual refresher training (practical or online) during any three-year FAW/EFAW certification period.
Employers should also encourage first-aiders to regularly review their first aid course manuals or top up with quality online training and allocate them time to do this.
There is no legal requirement for businesses to provide a defibrillator. However, the recovery statistics are compelling; if someone has a cardiac arrest in the community the odds of them surviving are only about 6%. If a defibrillator is readily available, they are in a shockable rhythm and the AED is deployed within three minutes – the odds jump to 74%. Hence, many businesses decide purchasing an AED is a critically important element of first aid provision.
If you invest in a defibrillator it is necessary to ensure staff receive appropriate training to use it. This training should be incorporated into the routine first aid training for your team at no additional cost.