First aid is the immediate treatment or care given to someone suffering from an injury or illness until further advanced care is accessed or the individual recovers. The aims of first aid are to:
- preserve life
- prevent illness or injury from becoming worse
- relieve pain, if possible
- promote recovery
- protect the unconscious.
The provision of prompt and appropriate first aid can reduce the severity of an injury or illness and in extreme cases, could mean the difference between life and death.
Every workplace has a legal responsibility for ensuring adequate first aid provisions. If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure your workplace provides workers and anyone else attending your workplace with access to appropriate first aid equipment. Additionally, you must possess an adequate number of people who are trained to administer first aid.
Depending on a few factors, the exact configuration of your first aid equipment and the number of trained first aiders will vary. These factors include the size of your workforce, the location and the risks associated with the nature of the work done there.
Compiling a risk assessment is important as it will help determine your first aid requirements. This should include consultation with your workers to take their views into account.
Having qualified first aiders in your workplace is vital. In order to be recognised as a first aider, the person needs to complete either a nationally accredited training course, or an equivalent training course that has given them the capabilities required to administer first aid.
It is recommended to have one first aider for every 25 workers in a high-risk workplace and one first aider for every 50 workers in a low-risk workplace. For more information regarding this, refer to page 13 of the First aid in the workplace - Code of Practice.
However, if the workplace is shared with other businesses or is one of several tenants in a large building such as a shopping centre, there are other routes to follow. For example; instead of training your own workers, you may be able to consult with other business operators and building management to ensure that your workers have access to first aiders.
With first aid kits, it is imperative that all workers have access to at least one in the workplace.
Included in the first aid kit should be sufficient basic equipment for administering first aid for injuries. In order to know what contents are actually needed inside the first aid kit, a risk assessment of the workplace will be required. For more information refer to page 9 of the First aid in the workplace - Code of Practice.
First aid kits can be any size or shape however, provided they are large enough to contain all of the necessary items. Though, they must be identifiable with a white cross on a green background and be made of a material that will protect the contents from dust, moisture and contamination.
Generally speaking, a first aider or a person within the workplace should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit.
In addition to first aid kits, it is important to consider if any other first aid equipment is necessary to treat injuries and illness that could occur in the workplace. This may include:
- permanent or portable eyewash and shower equipment
- an automated defibrillator where there is a risk of electrocution or large numbers of members of the public are regularly in or around the workplace
Moreover, a first aid room is recommended for high-risk workplaces of more than 100 workers and low-risk workplaces of more than 200 workers. Also, a risk assessment may find it necessary to provide a dedicated first aid treatment area in a smaller workplace.