What should we have in our First Aid Kit?
The Victorian Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace (2008), gives employers the choice of following one of two options in deciding what first aid facilities are appropriate to their workplace: the 'prescribed approach' and the 'risk assessment approach'.
Option 1: Prescribed approach
Location and quantity
- Low risk workplaces:
- one kit for 10 to 50 employees* (see 'Note', below)
- 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 a worker/s don't have 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.
Businesses with fewer than 10 employees are categorised as 'micro-businesses'. Micro-business employers still have duties when it comes to providing first aid for their employees. The Code states:
"A low-risk micro-business is one where:
- employees are not exposed to hazards that could result in serious injury or illness that would require immediate medical treatment such as those associated with plant, hazardous substances, dangerous goods, confined spaces and hazardous manual handling
- the business is located where medical assistance or ambulance services are readily available to the community and to the workplace where the business operates.
Low-risk micro-businesses could include retail shops and outlets, offices, libraries and art galleries.
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)."
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.
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
- 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)
Option 2: Risk assessment approach
For the second option, the employer at each workplace should conduct a risk assessment to determine likely workplace hazards and develop a first aid kit accordingly. This assessment must be done in consultation with the OHS rep/s. If there are no reps, then the employer must consult with the workers.
The contents of the kit will depend on:
- the size and layout of the workplace
- the number and distribution of employees throughout the workplace (including shift arrangements, overtime 'flexitime' and so on)
- the nature of any hazards and the severity of risk
- location of the workplace
- known occurrence of accidents or illnesses
In most workplaces the same items as listed above under the 'prescribed approach' would form the basis of a first aid kit.
Employers should also assess the need for additional items where particular hazards exist, for example eye medications, bandages etc., where there is the potential for eye injuries or burn medications where there is the risk of burns. Appendix II of the Code of Practice provides guidance on the possible contents of a first aid kit.
Once the contents of a first aid kit have been determined, the employer must ensure the kit is properly restocked and maintained.
For more guidance, see First Aid - What are the requirements?
The Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace can be downloaded from the Victorian WorkSafe website.
Is it OK to have Paracetemol (eg Panadol) in First Aid Kits?
The advice from WorkSafe Victoria is as follows:
Analgesics (e.g. paracetamol) come under the category of medication and are not considered a first aid item. The Victorian WorkCover Authority's opinion is that workplace first aid kits should not include medications of any type, including pain killers. 'First aid' is defined as the provision of emergency treatment and life support for people suffering injury or illness. The dispensing of medication would generally not fall within this definition. A major concern with dispensing medication is that a recipient may suffer an allergic reaction. This is possible, even with common medications such as paracetamol or aspirin. Many people are intolerant to such substances.
First Aiders are people who undertake the initial treatment of people suffering injury or illness at work. The Code of Practice for First Aid in the Workplace specifies that first aiders should not be responsible for on-going medical care. These people are trained to administer first aid only, not to make decisions on what medication should be given, and headache tablets, paracetamol etc. come under the category of medication.
Last amended June 2021