16 July 2021
What you need to know about… first aid in the office
Employers have a duty of care for all their employees, as well as visitors to their premises. As the Health and Safety Executive states: “You are responsible for making sure that your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or are injured at work.” This means you are legally required to have first aid arrangements in place to ensure the wellbeing of your employees, covering both physical and mental health.
first aid in Low-risk workplaces
For the most part small offices are categorised as low-risk environments, meaning you may only need minimal first aid precautions. At the lowest level the HSE requires all workplaces to have a well-equipped first aid box and an appointed FA person.
At this level the employee designated in charge of first aid does not need to be a trained first aider, as their responsibilities are limited to stocking the box and taking charge in an emergency e.g. by phoning 999.
It is not enough however to just assume your business is at the lowest level of risk and only take these precautions. If an accident was to take place you could find yourself legally accountable for your negligence if it was found that you should have taken greater precautions.
In order to get a better idea of what your risks are you need to carry out a thorough risk assessment that considers all of your employees’ needs — both office-based and remote, hazards and how they can be mitigated.
Following your risk assessment, you might find you need one or more trained first aiders working in your office. These are individuals who have completed a ‘First Aid at Work’ or other named course, such as those provided by St John’s Ambulance.
Employers are increasingly becoming aware of their staff’s mental health needs, and again following your risk assessment you might realise the need to have personnel trained to identify symptoms of mental health issues and how to support employees experiencing them.
There are today a number of mental health first aid courses which teach people the skills to support those experiencing issues with mental health while also keeping everyone safe.
A first aid kit is a minimum safety requirement for any workplace, however, it needs to be suitably stocked based upon your risk assessment and adjusted if working practices change. For example, if you move to a new premises with a staff kitchen you will likely find it necessary to add more equipment for the treatment of burns and scolds. First aid equipment must be replenished as used. Remember that some first aid equipment has expiration dates meaning some items will need to be periodically replaced even if they have not been used.
Keeping records of accidents is also an important duty that will help you in the future with risk assessments, so you should keep an accident book near your first aid box to record all injury. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 act requires employers to report serious injuries and occurrences of certain occupational diseases to the government.
Remember that while it is important to have adequate procedures in place to treat harm caused to personnel in the workplace, these risks should be absolutely minimised as best as possible. You can find out more about how here.