Prepare for Any First Aid Emergency

Author: Safe Work Australia   Date Posted:9 July 2018 

Incidents can happen without warning and in every type of workplace. It is critical you are prepared for any first aid emergencies that could happen in yours.

Some general recommendations

To decide what sort of first aid you might need think about:

  • The type of work you do and the safety issues involved.
  • The size and location of your workplace, for example the distance between work areas and response times for emergency services.
  • The usual number of people at the workplace. This may include workers, contractors, subcontractors, volunteers and visitors.

We recommend in low-risk workplaces a first aid room is provided when there are more than 200 workers, and in high-risk workplaces when there are more than 100 workers.

As a rule of thumb there should be one first aider for every:

  • 50 workers in low-risk workplaces (an office)
  • 25 workers in high-risk workplaces (a construction site).

A trained first aider will need to hold a nationally recognised statement of attainment from a registered training organisation.

Frequently Asked First Aid Questions

Should I complete a first aid risk assessment?

Yes. Every workplace is different. By completing a first aid risk assessment you should be able to identify some of the potential risks within your workplace and what you could do to minimise them including your first aid needs. 

What should I consider when completing the risk assessment?

  • To help you decide what first aid equipment, facilities and training are needed you must consider how likely it is that an injury may occur and how serious it might be.
  • Look at any past injuries, illnesses and ‘near miss’ information either in your workplace or that may have been reported in similar industries or workplaces.
  • Ask others in similar industries what first aid equipment they typically supply and what scenarios they may have reported.
  • Carry out risk assessments regularly to assess any changes in the workplace.

Do I have to provide a first aid officer?

  • You must make sure an adequate number of workers are trained to administer first aid in your workplace, or that workers have access to an adequate number of trained first aiders.
  • First aid can be provided by a worker or non-worker as long as they have been trained and are easily accessible.
  • If first aid facilities provided by others nearby are available, for example in retail shopping centres, offices, libraries and galleries, it may not be necessary for a small business to provide their own first aid officer.

How should I identify or contact my first aid officer?

  • Clear signs at the first aid officer’s workstation.
  • Many workplaces provide a high visibility hat or item of clothing for the first aid officer if they are moving around the worksite. 
  • Use a mobile phone or two-way radio.
  • Signage around the workplace to make sure everyone knows who the first aid officers are, how to recognise them and how to call for help in an emergency.

How many first aid officers are required?

  • You need to work this out using a first aid risk assessment by taking into account the number of people who may be at your workplace at any one time, including workers, contractors, subcontractors, volunteers and visitors, as well as the type of work that takes place and any associated risks.
  • Low risk workplaces may only need one first aid officer for every 50 workers, where high risk ones may need one first aid officer for every 25 workers.

What qualifications do first aid officers need?

  • At a minimum, first aid officers should hold a current first aid certificate (Provide First Aid) and the skills and knowledge to treat someone immediately until, if necessary, further help arrives.
  • Some workplaces may require more specific or advanced first aid training depending on the workplace and what risk factors workers may be exposed to.

Who pays for the training?

  • If a worker is required to undergo training as part of their employment it is expected that this cost would be would met by the workplace.
  • First aiders should attend training on a regular basis so their knowledge and skills are kept up-to-date.

What should be in a first aid kit?

The contents of first aid kits need to be appropriate for your workplace and this will depend on:

  • size, layout and where the workplace is located
  • number of workers
  • types of hazards
  • how likely it is someone might get hurt
  • the type and seriousness of injuries
  • known occurrence of incidents or illnesses.

The first aid kit needs to be immediately identifiable, fit all the contents easily and be easily accessible and unlocked.

It should be made of a material that will protect the contents from dust, moisture and contamination.

A person in the workplace (usually the first aid officer) should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit and make sure any items are replaced as soon as possible after use, and that items remain within their use by date.

Find a range of First Aid Kits available for purchase here.

Should medications be included in a first aid kit?

  • Dispensing medication could harm a patient if used inappropriately or is not one they commonly use. Medications could interact with others the injured person is already taking. This could happen even with common medications like paracetamol or aspirin.
  • It is important to remember that a first aider is not a medical provider and should not be required to make decisions about medications to be administered in any emergency. First aid is about the immediate treatment or care given to a person suffering from an injury or illness until more advanced care is provided or until the person makes a full recovery.
  • However in some circumstances, for example if work is done in remote locations where medical attention is not readily available and after completing the first aid risk assessment, you might want to include some limited medications in the first aid kit.

Is a first aid room required?

  • A first aid room is not needed in all workplaces. For example if a small business is located within a larger building or complex where there is easy access to a first aid room, it may be possible for them to access these services rather than supply their own. If they couldn’t access them, however, then they’d need to make sure suitable facilities were supplied for their workers.

What does the first aid room need to have?

The Code outlines the basic requirements if a first aid room is required in a workplace. A first aid room should:

  • Be big enough to provide any appropriate immediate medical treatment.
  • Be well-lit and ventilated.
  • Be easily accessible to those who are injured or who may need to be supported by a stretcher or wheelchair.
  • Have easy access to toilets and running water.
  • Not be used for any other purpose.
  • Remain under the control of the first aid officer who has been trained and holds the appropriate skills and knowledge.

What needs to happen with incident reports?

  • A record of any first aid treatment given should be kept by the first aid officer and a copy provided to management for review of any first aid arrangements.
  • Records of notifiable incidents must be kept for at least five years from the date of the notification. Further information on incident notification may be found on incident notification reporting page or from your local regulator.
  • Some workplace incidents must be notified to the WHS Regulator immediately after becoming aware of the incident. If you are unsure of whether the incident should be reported, contact your local regulator and they will be able to help you further.

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