First Aid - what are the requirements

Under the Victorian OHS Act, 2004 , the employer has a legal duty to:

'provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the control and management of the employer' (Section 21[2][d])

What does this mean in terms of first aid?

There is nothing specified in legislation (ie either the Act or the regulations) regarding what first aid facilities an employer must provide. However, there is guidance to be found in the new Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace.

The Code provides two options on how to comply:

  • Option 1: the "Prescribed approach" - with detailed guidance on how to comply with the Act, including the number of first aid officers, their duties and training; the number of first aid kits and their contents; and the number of first aid rooms and their requirements. It's suggested that this might be the approach for workplaces with 10 or more employees, or workplaces with few than 10 employees with a higher level of risk.

  • Option 2: the "Risk Assessment approach" - this involves assessing the workplace and the hazards to make appropriate decisions about what first aid requirements are needed.

The Code reminds employers that:

By law, so far as is reasonably practicable, employers must consult with health and safety representatives and employees on a range of matters that directly affect (or are likely to directly affect) their health and safety. Consultation related to this code would include:

  • consultation on first aid needs
  • consultation on first aid training
  • consultation on changes to any procedures related to first aid

Option 1 - Prescribed approach

Employers who follow the guidance provided in this section will be considered to have complied with their duties under the Act. The section starts with a discussion of 'low-risk' and 'high-risk' workplaces - this is because the following sections provide different advice depending on the type of workplace.

Low-risk (eg offices, banks, libraries, most retail operations):

  • no exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness (as described below) requiring immediate medical attention
  • the business is located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available  

High-risk:

  • potential exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness requiring immediate medical attention. Examples include amputation of any part of the body; serious head or eye injury; de-gloving; electric shock; spinal injury; loss of a bodily function; serious lacerations 

First aid officers

Low-risk workplaces:

  • one for 10 - 50 workers
  • two for 51 - 100 workers
  • one additional for every additional 100 workers
High-risk workplaces:
  • one for up to 25 workers
  • two for 26 to 50 workers
  • one additional for every additional 50 workers

Where employees don't have timely access to medical/ambulance services (eg in remote, isolated or mobile workplaces) then compliance means at least one first aid officer for every 10 employees.

What if there are fewer than 10 employees?

In a low-risk micro-business (ie a business such as a retail shop, office, library or art gallery) with fewer than 10 employees, the Code states: "A low-risk micro-business complies with its duties to provide first aid by providing a first aid kit that includes the contents set out on page 8 (of the code)." These are the standard first aid kit requirements.

First aid training

  • Minimal acceptable level of training for workplace first aid officers: senior first aid certificate (often referred to as a level 2 first aid qualification) - or its competency based equivalent HLTFA301B Apply First Aid 
  • higher-risk workplaces may require first aid officers who have completed occupational first aid training (often referred to as a level 3 first aid qualification) - or its competency based equivalent HLTFA402B Apply Advanced First Aid
  • if a workplace is large and diverse , or has a complex range of OHS hazards , then the employer needs to choose Option 2 (Risk assessment approach) to determine the appropriate level of first aid training based on a risk assessment. 
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current (see advice on training below)

First aid kits

Location and quantity

  • Low risk workplaces:
    - one kit for 10 to 50 employees
    - one additional kit for every additional 50 employees up to 200
    - after 200, one additional kit for every addition 100 employees
  • Higher-risk workplaces:
    - one kit, including specific first aid modules, for up to 25 employees
    - two kits, with specific modules, for up to 50 employees
    - one additional kit, with specific modules, for every additional 50 employees
  • Where there isn't timely access to medical/ambulance services then compliance means at least one first aid kit for every 25 employees. Employees in remote, isolated or mobile workplaces need to have access to appropriate first aid kits.
  • Where there are separate work areas, it may be appropriate to locate first aid facilities centrally, and provide portable kits in each work area. This may include motor vehicles.

The Container - needs to protect the contents of the kit from dust and damage. If additional modules are needed, the container should be large enough, preferably to hold them in separate compartments. The container needs to be recognisable (eg with a white cross on a green background and clearly marked as 'First aid kit') and should not be locked.    

Contents of kit 

What is appropriate will vary according to the workplace . Employers need to ensure that kits are adequately stocked for their workplace. A kit needs to include:

  • basic first aid notes
  • disposable gloves
  • resuscitation mask
  • individually wrapped sterile adhesive dressings
  • sterile eye pads (packet)
  • sterile coverings for serious wounds
  • triangular bandages
  • safety pins
  • small, medium and large sterile unmedicated wound dressings
  • non-allergenic tape
  • rubber thread or crepe bandage
  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • suitable book for recording details of first aid provided
  • sterile saline solution
  • plastic bags for disposal

The name and telephone number of workplace first aid officers, and the phone number and address of the emergency services should be either in or near each first aid kit.  

Reusable items (such as scissors and tweezers) need to be thoroughly cleaned using warm soapy water or an alcohol swab after each use. While some items can be obtained in disposable form, these are often not as effective as the metal type and are not considered a standard item.

Employers need to ensure that the kits are restocked as necessary.

Additional first aid kit modules

The employer needs to assess whether additional first aid kit modules are required where particular hazards exist. Common examples: modules dealing with eyes, burns and remote workplaces. (Appendix E of the Code has more on additional kit modules)

First aid rooms and medical services

Whether a first aid room is needed will depend on the type of workplace. The Code states that compliance is achieved by providing a first aid room in:

  • low-risk workplaces with more than 200 employees
  • higher-risk workplaces with more than 100 employees

Room requirements:

The room needs to be large enough for its purpose, well-lit and well-ventilated; easily accessible to injured people who may need to be supported or moved by stretcher or wheelchair, and needs to have easy access to toilets. The following items need to be provided in the room:

  • resuscitation mask
  • sink and washbasin with hot and cold water
  • work bench or dressing tray
  • cupboards for storing medicaments, dressings and linen
  • a container for soiled dressings
  • a sharps disposal system
  • electric power points
  • a couch with blankets and pillows
  • an upright chair
  • a desk and telephone
  • signage indicating emergency telephone numbers
  • signage indicating emergency first aid procedures
  • a stretcher
  • a first aid kit appropriate for the workplace

Additional first aid kit modules and items or equipment may need to be provided. A first aid room should not be used for any other purpose, and need to be under the control of a first aid officer with the appropriate skills and knowledge. 

Access to medical services and the nature and extent of those services   

There may be a need in higher-risk workplaces to ensure the services of an appropriate medical centre - to provide emergency medical treatment appropriate to the risks - are available (either on-site or readily available off-site).

Signage 

The employer need to provide safety signs to identify first aid facilities, including emergency telepone numbers, names of first aid officers, etc. The signs should be a white cross on a green background. (For more guidance, see AS 1319 Safety signs for the occupational environment )

Low-risk micro-businesses

A micro-business is one with fewer than 10 employees and there is

  • no exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness (as described below) requiring immediate medical attention
  • the business is located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available

These could include retail shops and outlets, offices, libraries and art galleries. Compliance is achieved by providing a basic first aid kit, as described above.

Option 2: Risk assessment approach

Establishing first aid requirements

In consultation with affected employees and their health and safety reps, employers need to:

  • identify hazards that could result in injury or illness
  • assess the likelihood and severity (the risk)
  • determine and provide the appropriate first aid facilities and training - and evaluate these
  • review the requirements on a regular basis or as circumstances change

As part of this systematic approach, employers need to take account of the following factors:

The nature of the hazards and severity of the risks

Some workplaces have greater risks due to the nature of the work, and this is an important factor in determining first aid requirements. Where a workplace stores/uses highly toxic or corrosive chemicals, additional first aid facilities need to be provided (particularly if specified in the MSDS). Facilities may need to include emergency showers and eyewash stations, and where applicable, poison antidotes. 

Known occurrences of injuries, illnesses and incidents

Injury, illness and 'near miss' incident data should be reviewed to help identify problem areas, but not be relied on as it covers past occurrences, not potential injuries and illnesses. The code lists specialist practitioners, industry reps, unions and government as potential sources of assistance and information.

Size and layout of workplace  

The employer needs to take these things into account:

  • the nature of the work being performed in different work areas
  • the distance an injured or sick person would have to be transported to receive first aid
  • the level of first aid available in the workplace

First aid facilities need to be located at convenient points and in areas where there is significant risk. Larger workplaces may require first aid facilities in more than one location.

The number of employees and the way work is done 

The employer needs to take account of the following:

  • separate areas of work (separate buildings, or floors) - it may be appropriate to have central first aid facilities and first aid kits in each area
  • employees working away from the employer's premises - whether they work alone or in groups; their access to telephone/emergency radio communications; the nature of the work
  • work occurring over more than one shift - ensuring availability of first aid facilities
  • presence of members of the public (eg schools, museums, libraries, sporting venues) - additional facilities may be required

Location of the workplace

The employer needs to consider:

  • the distance to ambulance services, hospital and medical centres
  • in the case of possible life-threatening injuries and timely access to emergency services cannot be assured, whether a first aid officer trained in more advanced techniques (eg use of defibrillators and oxygen provision) is needed
  • factors influencing time it may take for medical aid to reach person - eg poor roads, adverse weather - and whether facilities for aerial evacuation need to be included in planning first aid facilities, as well as ensuring efficient communication systems.
  • provision of portable first aid kits, including specialised kit modules, for employees working in remote locations

Recording the first aid assessment

The employer should record the assessment and its outcomes, as this 'may be beneficial when reviewing first aid facilities and training needs'.

First Aid Officers

  • must have appropriate training
  • skills and knowledge will vary with each type of workplace, as will the number required
  • first aid officers need to have access to appropriate first aid kits and where appropriate, first aid rooms and occupational health centres

Records

The employer needs to ensure that a record of any first aid treatment given is kept by the first aid officer and reported to managers on a regular basis to assist the employer when reviewing risk assessment procedures. These records are subject to the requirements of the Health Records Act 2001 . WorkSafe advised that the records should include:

  • workers name and occupation or job title
  • time and date of injury
  • location at the time of injury
  • description of how the injury was received
  • nature of injury and bodily part/s affected
  • witnesses
  • nature of first aid treatment given
  • name of person making the entry in the records
  • date of entry in register

There is no set period of time for keeping records. It is recommended that first aid records be kept for the life of the worker.

First aid training

  • Minimal acceptable level of training for workplace first aid officers: senior first aid certificate (often referred to as a level 2 first aid qualification) - or its competency based equivalent HLTFA301B Apply First Aid
  • If a workplace is large and diverse , or has a complex range of OHS hazards , it may require first aid officers who have completed occupational first aid training (often referred to as a level 3 first aid qualification) - or its competency based equivalent HLTFA402B Apply Advanced First Aid
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current

Occupational health professionals and access to medical services

  • The Code advises that in some high risk workplaces there may be a need for an occupational health centre for the initial treatment of injuries/illness and if so, then the employer should also consider engaging suitably qualified health professionals (eg registered nurse or medical practitioner)
  • Alternatively, arrangements need to be in place to make sure the services of an appropriate medical centre external to the workplace are available.The medical centre needs to provide emergency treatment and preferably have an understanding of the types of hazards at the workplace and their potential effects on the health of employees.

First Aid Kits

Location and quantity

Appropriate first aid facilities will vary according to the workplace - the employer must have regard to factors such as nature of hazards and severity of risks, incidents, etc when deciding on the appropriate number of first aid kits and where to place them. They must be clearly identifiable, easily accessible and employees need to be advised of their location.

The Container - as per Option One, see above, under Option One

Contents - basic kit and advice, as per Option One

Additional first aid kit modules

The employer needs to assess whether additional modules (eg for eyes, burns and remote workplaces) are required where particular hazards exist. Advice is provided in Appendix E of the Code.

First Aid rooms and medical services  

Room requirements; Access to medical services and the nature and extent of those services; and Signage

Contents and advice as per Option One, plus the room should also have:

  • face goggles
  • hazardous waste container or bio-hazard bags for soiled dressing
  • an automated external defibrillator (* A defibrillator is used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. Defibrillators should only be used by people who have been trained in their use)

First aid risk assessment process

  • Step 1 - Identify potential causes of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 2 - Assess the risk of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 3 - What fist aid facilities are required to meet the assessed needs?
  • Periodic review of assessment.

The Compliance Code for First Aid in the workplace can be downloaded from the WorkSafe Victoria website.

Training

Advice from the Metropolitan Ambulance Service is that First Aid certificates only have a limited 'lifetime' and so for a first aider to maintain his/her status, he/she must regularly undertake training as follows:

CPR Certificate training - must be redone every 12 months, as the CPR Certificate is for 12 months only

Level 1 & Level 2 First Aid Certificate - these certificates are valid for three (3) years and so the course must be redone within that time. The course lengths are 6 hours and 16 hours respectively.

Alternative for Level 2 - there is a Level 2 First Aid refresher course of 1 day's duration (8 hours), completion of the Refresher Course, which involves an amount of work to be done prior to attendance, also makes the first aider current for 3 years.

More information

Last amended  July 2016

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