What should we have in our First Aid Kit?
The Victorian for First aid in the workplace Compliance Code has had a major update with the new Edition 1 released in November 2021.
Like the previous code, it 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.
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 in paragraphs 121-124 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')
The name and telephone number of workplace first aid officers, as well as emergency services telephone numbers and addresses, should be located in or near each first aid kit - 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 basic kit needs to include:
- first aid instructions/quick reference guide
- notebook and pen/pencil
- disposable surgical face masks (4)
- resuscitation mask or face shield with one-way valve
- disposable nitrile gloves - latex free (5 pairs in various sizes)
- 3-pack gauze swabs 10 x 10 cm (5 packs)
- Saline 14 ml (8) or 30ml (4)
- adhesive dressing strips - plastic/fabric (packet of 50)
- non-adherent wound dressing/pad 5x5cm, small (6)
- non-adherent wound dressing/pad 7.5x7.5cm, medium (3)
- non-adherent wound dressing/pad 10x10cm, large (3)
- Conforming crepe bandage, light, 5 cm width (3)
- Conforming crepe bandage, light, 7.5 cm width (3)
- Conforming crepe bandage, 10 cm width
- adhesive tape, non-stretch, hypoallergenic, 2.5 cm wide roll
- dressing – combine pad 9 x 20 cm (2)
- resealable bag - large (2)
- triangular bandage minimum width 100x155cm (2)
- eye pads, single use (2)
- instant cold pack for treatment of soft tissue injuries and some stings
- alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- emergency accident blanket
Employers 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. (See paragraphs 125 - 136 for more on Additional first aid kit modules)
Employers need to ensure that the kits are restocked as necessary, and should have a system for reviewing and restocking kits.
The use of single-use items should be encouraged.
Option 2: Risk assessment approach
For the second option, the employer at each workplace needs to 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 basic 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.
Once the contents of first aid kits have been determined, the employer needs to ensure that the kits are restocked as necessary, and should have a system for reviewing and restocking kits.
Can or should medications be included in First Aid Kits?
The Code advises the following in paragraphs 138 - 141)- this is new advice:
Employers should consider including:
- an asthma-relieving inhaler and a spacer to treat asthma attacks
- an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector (EpiPen) for the treatment of anaphylaxis
- 300 mg of dissolvable aspirin for the treatment of chest pain, to be administered on the instruction of Ambulance Victoria or a registered health professional
- if considered necessary, mild analgesics, such as paracetamol or similar which are available for unrestricted purchase, can be included
First aid officers are people who undertake the initial treatment of people suffering injury or illness at work. The are not expected to know employees' medical conditions.
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.
Last amended November 2021