The events of the last year and our management of COVID-19 did however facilitate several changes to the requirements placed on employers. Not least for training provision and responsibilities, particularly for those no longer in ‘the office’.
With these in mind, together with the largely heralded possible changes to workplace and workstyle, there will be need for further changes in how organisations understand, and meet their obligations to employees under the regulations.
The regulations require employers to make sure that employees receive immediate assistance if they are injured or taken ill at work, through the provision of adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and appropriately trained personnel. So how are you placed currently to deliver on this, bearing in mind the changes we’ve had and those yet to come?
What are the main requirements of the regulations?
Under The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 and its associated guidance:
“Employers have a legal duty to make arrangements to ensure their 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 they do, what is important is that they receive immediate attention and that an ambulance is called in serious cases.”
The provision of first aid in the workplace should cover the arrangements that need to be made to manage any injuries or illness suffered at work. The arrangements you make should be needs assessed and based on the risks and circumstances of your workplace, employees and their activities. This will in turn determine the extent to which you need to provide first aid arrangements.
Your first aid needs assessment will help identify aspects such as:
- Whether you require trained first-aiders, and if so, how many;
- The type of training any first aiders need;
- What should be included in first-aid boxes; and
- If a first-aid room is required.
L74 First aid at work The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, Guidance on Regulations, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides information on the requirements of the regulations and what is expected of employers.
Who do the regulations apply to?
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 apply to all workplaces including those with less than five employees, it also extends to the self-employed, and requires the employer to make sure employees get immediate help if taken ill or injured at work. In addition, you must have:
- Suitably stocked first aid kits;
- An appointed person or people to take charge of first aid arrangements; and
- Information for all employees telling them about first aid arrangements.
While the legislation does not directly cover the provision of first aid for non-employees (i.e. members of the public, visitors or children in school), the HSE “strongly recommends that non-employees are included in an assessment of first-aid needs and that provision is made for them.”
There are also special requirements that need to be put in place for higher hazard environments and activities, such as offshore work and diving.
What should a first aid needs assessment consider?
In essence, your first aid needs assessment should be developed to provide you with an informed opinion of what arrangements you need to have in place in your workplace.
In assessing your first-aid needs, the type of aspects of your organisation that could influence the findings, and so your first aid provision could include the:
- Work activities you undertake (i.e. desk based, workshop, travel, remote, lone working, etc.);
- Size (number of staff) and location(s) of your workforce (office, warehouse, manufacturing, school etc., sole occupier, shared or multi-occupied sites, and their proximity to emergency medical services if needed);
- Type of workplace hazards and risks your employees could encounter routinely and where specific hazards may be encountered which would require special arrangements;
- History of accidents in your organisation (are there trends to the type of accidents you get in different workplaces or departments?);
- Distribution and work patterns of your workforce – and how these may be affected by holidays/other absences and so determines how first aid arrangements are delivered;
- Provision of first-aid potentially needed for non-employees, such as visitors or members of the public; and
- Means and ways to manage mental ill health in your workplace.
The HSE has published further guidance on carrying out first-aid needs assessment here - First aid at work: The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Guidance on Regulations L74 (hse.gov.uk)
Once completed, your first-aid needs assessment should be used to influence the decisions you make in delivering, ‘adequate and appropriate’ provision across your organisation. This will include the materials, facilities and equipment you employ as well as, for example, the number of trained first-aiders you may need, appointing mental health trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.
You should keep your first-aid needs assessment under regular review, particularly where operational changes in your workplace have occurred or following an identified accident trend.
How has your first-aid provision been affected by COVID-19?
The provision of your first-aid must be maintained for your employees and remain ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’. The last year and our response to COVID-19 has seen much change and disruption to what was previously ‘normal’.
Whilst the requirements for the provision of first-aid did not change, there were a number of amendments to the requirements for qualification/re-qualification of trained first-aiders over this time. This included:
- Extensions to first-aider requalification training were extended (initially for three months) where First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificates that expired after the 16th March 2020 remained valid for 6 months or to the 31st October 2020 (whichever was later).All requalification training for these certificates should be completed by 31st March 2021. In qualifying for these extensions, the HSE are advising employers they must be able to demonstrate:
- “They have made every effort to arrange requalification training as soon as possible and can explain in detail why they have not been able to do so. For example, they must show evidence that staff with expired certificates are booked on to EFAW or FAW requalification courses, if requested by an inspector;
- They have adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities to give first aid to any employee who is injured or becomes ill at work
- The level of first aid cover provided remains appropriate for their particular work environment;
- The level of first aid provision necessary in high risk settings is fully maintained, e.g. in construction, agriculture, engineering and chemicals.”
- Certain practical elements of First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid Work training courses have been temporarily omitted. For example, The Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) has stated that they are supportive of training providers who may wish to omit practical teaching and assessment of rescue breaths in first aid training while coronavirus transmission rates are very high. The HSE have provided further guidance, where this has occurred, but do state “HSE always strongly recommends that workplace first aiders undertake annual refresher training. If first aid training or requalification during the coronavirus outbreak has not included practical training and assessment for giving rescue breaths, employers should ensure that this is included in the next refresher course.”
What other considerations should I make for my first aid provision?
As we remobilise there are going to be a number of factors that will affect how we respond to and adapt our first-aid provision. Different organisations will be at different places in the process and not all will see changes in the short term, but potential influences could include:
- Our roadmap to recovery further rolling out over the coming weeks and months - so potentially more people (employees and others) coming back to the office;
- A possible significant change in workstyle for a number of organisations - with employees working at home more.
- A possible significant change in the workplace – use of space, type of space, activities etc.
It remains to be seen to what degree these, and/or any other more specific actions you’re undertaking will affect you, but in the meantime, here are some points to reflect on:
- Keep your first aid needs assessment under review to make sure it reflects your current situation. As more people return and occupy more of the building this could change the need for first-aiders and first-aid provision.
- Have any COVID-19 related alterations in your workplace created any accident trends? If so, what are they and do you need to revise your current first-aid arrangements?
- Make sure your first-aiders have been made aware of any COVID-19 personal protection procedures they should be adopting (what they can and cannot do if administering first-aid)
- Check that your first aiders are still willing to provide first aid assistance.
- Put in place procedures for what to do if someone in your workplace is suspected of having COVID-19 (e.g. procedure, reporting, quarantine area etc.)
- Check and maintain your first-aid equipment that has not been used for a long time for example first-aid boxes, defibrillators;
- Put in place procedures to clean first aid equipment after use.
- If your FAW or EFAW training has been delayed or practical elements of courses omitted due to COVID-19, establish each first-aiders skills and any gaps. Adjust your future training needs accordingly (i.e. if a number of people missed rescue breaths practical training and assessment, you could arrange a one-off course for them all). Also remember the extension for requalification certificates for those whose training was affected by COVID-19 was the 31st March 2021.
- If you are planning on maintaining lower levels of staffing, maintaining a reduced level of first-aid cover may still be appropriate. Check information about first aid provision that you are providing to your employee, to ensure it is accurate. You may also need to consider stopping “higher risk” activities, if an adequate level of first-aid cover cannot be maintained.
- If you share a workplace with other organisations you could arrange to co-ordinate your first-aid provision by, for example, sharing first-aiders. The HSE advise, “shared first aiders must:
- be aware of the type of injuries or illnesses that you identified in your first aid needs assessment and have the training and skills to address them
- know enough about your work environment and its first aid facilities
- be able to get to the workplace in good time if needed
Whoever provides the temporary cover must make sure they do not adversely affect their own first aid cover.”
- If not in place already consider you provision of metal health first-aid for employees. This will be particularly important as we remobilise and people adjust to any new ways of working (especially if they are going to remain remote or see changes to their work hours/patterns etc.).
- Where employees are likely to be working from home on a much more regular basis after the pandemic, review your responsibilities for them based on their role and include these people in your first-aid needs assessment reviews. The HSE advise “if your work is low-risk, such as desk-based work and you work in your own home, you don’t need any first aid equipment beyond normal domestic needs” and “if your work involves lots of driving, you may want to keep a first aid kit in your vehicle”
- In some organisations people will often take on multiple roles including fire warden, health and safety representative and being a first-aider. Make sure any changes in your workplace and staffing adequately reflect the need for each, especially where, for example in an emergency situation, these roles may conflict.
- Review and update your information on first-aiders to make sure it is accurate. Often while centralised intranet based information gets regularly updated, localised notices and posters, etc. around the building can be missed.
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