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First aid kit requirements for the workplace

first aid kitOver the last few years, there has been a significant change in the standards businesses must conform to when providing first aid boxes for their workplace.

In June 2011, the BSI introduced BS-8599 British Standard for First Aid Kits, which gave business owners until the end of 2011 to change their first aid provisions.

The old BHTA-HSE kit had been the standard since 1997, but the guidelines the HSE used to compile this information had become outdated, and as such, it is now inadequate in relation to new first aid regulations.

Most of the major EU states already followed a national minimum standard for first aid kits in the workplace, whereas the UK had no such guidelines – and with advancements in training, equipment and inflectional control now easily available, it made sense that we introduced a minimum standard that would ensure employees were provided with adequate first aid provisions whilst at work.  

The new standard is a response to changes in the industry and has modernised the traditional first aid kit, providing provisions for every eventuality, especially concerns over infection management that were not fully considered before.

The Old First Aid Kit

The BHTA standard was found to be lacking in many areas, with the main concerns being:

  • There was only a requirement for 1 pair of gloves, even though there were various dressings for wounds.
  • New training protocol states that lower limbs don’t always require immobilisation – but the kit still contained triangular bandages for this purpose.
  • Modern wet gel burn dressings weren’t available, even though they are the most commonly used treatment for burns.
  • The old kits contained only a minimum amount of plasters and antiseptic wipes, which was considered inadequate in many workplaces.

The Changes

The new British Standard addressed these deficits by introducing a number of minimum changes that employers must make to update their kits. These included the introduction of:  

  • More Nitrile type gloves – in line with the NHS and St. John Ambulance recommendations
  • More plasters and sterile wipes – in line with European CE marking rules
  • Smaller finger dressings  - which are more commonly used and better for smaller injuries
  • Wet gel burn dressings and appropriate bandages to secure them
  • Adhesive tape to replace safety pins for securing dressings
  • A foil emergency blanket to keep casualties warm and reduce the symptoms of shock
  • A mouth to mouth resuscitation device to protect the first aider from infection
  • Eyewash for travel kits

There is also a reduction in the number of triangular bandages and medium and large sized dressings, which were not so commonly used.

Risk Assessments

Understanding the hazards and threats to safety in your specific workplace is paramount to avoiding injuries and preparing a suitable first aid kit. As such, it is essential that every workplace undergoes a professional risk assessment so that all hazards are considered and all potential injuries, illnesses and accidents are prepared for.

That’s why the BSI guidelines suggest 4 kit types, small, medium, large and vehicle travel. The tailored kit sizes and uses offer business owners a greater degree of clarity in relation to what is considered an essential, and allows them to make first aid provisions that are suitable for their workplace.

They have published a set of guidelines in relation to which kit is best for each set of requirements. In workplaces with low hazards, such as shops and offices, it is recommended that a small kit will suffice for less than 25 employees, a medium kit if there are between 25 and 50 employees and a large kit for every 100 employees.

In higher risk environments, such as machinery industries, processing and warehousing, a small kit is only considered adequate for 5 or fewer employees, and a large kit is necessary for every 25 employees.

First Aid Training and Kits

For more information regarding your requirements as a business owner and how you can keep your employees safe whilst conforming to current legislation and guidelines, contact a local training centre, such as Health and Safety Training Ltd. They will be able to take care of all of your first aid training requirements and offer you professional, tailored advice to keep your workplace safe.

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