No longer an afterthought, adequate first aid kits are now an essential feature of job sites.

Once upon a time, first aid kits were little more than an afterthought for businesses. A packet of Band Aid plasters, perhaps a few bandages, a bottle of iodine or other type of ‘general’ antiseptic cream.

Today, all businesses (no matter how big or small) must meet first aid requirements under the new Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. Small businesses with fewer than 25 workers are no longer exempt.

The legislation requires that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must:

  • ensure the provision of first aid equipment for the workplace
  • ensure each worker has access to the equipment and facilities for the administration of first aid; and
  • ensure an adequate number of workers are trained to administer first aid or workers have access to an adequate number of trained persons.

Specifically, businesses need to:

  • provide first aid facilities adequate for immediate treatment of injuries that arise
  • ensure first aid kits are maintained in proper condition and the contents are replenished as necessary
  • ensure first aid kits are regularly checked to ensure the contents are as listed and have not deteriorated or expired
  • ensure first aid kits are located at points convenient to the work force and where there is a risk of injury occurring
  • provide at least one first aid kit on each floor of a multi-level workplace; and
  • provide each work vehicle with a vehicle first aid kit.

The provision of first aid will require the PCBU to take into account all relevant matters, including:

  • the nature of  the work being undertaken
  • potential hazards in the workplace
  • the size and location  of the workplace; and
  • the number and composition of workers and others (including contractors, subcontractors, volunteers and visitors) at the workplace.

The type of work being undertaken will be a factor in determining what are an adequate number of first aid kits and trained first aid providers. For example, a business handling hazardous chemicals may require more kits and providers than a finance business with the same number of workers.

The regulations do not stop with the number of kits required. The nature of the work undertaken and hazards in the workplace also impact upon the contents of a first aid kit.

For example, if there is machinery posing an amputation risk, does your kit contain a plastic bag large enough to hold any body part that may be amputated for transportation?

One way to assess the contents of your first aid kit is to look at your injury register and the type of injuries that occur most frequently. Carry out a new risk assessment. If lacerations and burns appear high in number, it would make sense for your kits to contain additional burns packets.

In addition to consulting with workers, consider the following:

  • the size and layout of the workplace
  • proximity or otherwise to medical services or hospitals
  • suitable locations for stocked first aid kits
  • any additional materials needed (for example, additional first aid contents specific to the treatment of burns)
  • whether or not you have a trained first aid provider on site (and how often)
  • whether or not any workers work offsite, and
  • what provisions may be appropriate for offsite workers.

What expires may surprise you

Bandages have an expiry date, particularly sterile dressings and others with additives or treatments such as antiseptics or coagulating agents. For normal ‘Band Aid’ plasters, the adhesive can get old. Not all will expire at the same time, so be sure to list the contents and expiry dates and be alert to expiry. Contents that have expired – even a sticking plaster – can mean non-compliance.

Similarly, be aware of the expiry of first aid training qualifications. First Aid training is valid for two years, but CPR training is only for 12 months, so when making sure there are an adequate number of workers trained to administer first aid, be alert to each part of their training and its expiry.