First aid in the workplace
Incidents can happen without warning in any workplace. Employers and employees should be prepared for emergencies.
What is first aid?
According to the First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice, first aid is “the immediate treatment or care given to a person suffering from an injury or illness until more advanced care is provided or the person recovers”.
A first aider is “a person who has successfully completed a nationally accredited training course or an equivalent level of training that has given them the competencies required to administer first aid” to someone who is injured or ill (First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice).
Providing first aid may mean the difference between someone’s life or death.
A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.
The employer is required to:
- provide first aid equipment and ensure each worker at the workplace has access to the equipment
- ensure access to facilities for the administration of first aid
- ensure an adequate number of workers are trained in first aid administration or that workers have access to an adequate number of other people who have been trained to administer first aid.
The employer must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who are (or who are likely to be) directly affected by a work health and safety matter.
What is required in providing first aid?
First aid requirements will vary from one workplace to the next, depending on the nature of the work, the type of hazards, the workplace size and location, as well as the number of people at the workplace.
How many first aiders are required in a workplace?
The number of required first aiders will depend on whether to workplace is low or high risk. The lower the hazard, the less first aiders required.
Employers also need to take in consideration the number of employees in the workplace, including contractors and other people who may not work in the workplace on a regular basis.
The following ratios are recommended:
- Low risk work place: one first aider per every 50 workers
- High Risk work place: one first aider per every 25 workers.
First aid training
First aiders should hold nationally recognised Statements of Attainment issued by a Registered Training Organisation for the nationally endorsed first aid unit/s of competency.
Refresher training in CPR should be undertaken annually and first aid qualifications should be renewed every three years.
First aiders may also need to undertake additional first aid training to respond to specific situations at their workplace. For example, where workers have severe allergies, first aiders should be trained to respond to anaphylaxis if this topic has not been covered in previous first aid training.
Note - St Johns Ambulance offers a discount to SDA members on first aid training courses.
First aid kits
Staff should be aware of who the first aiders are, where the first aid is located and where the evacuation points are in case of an emergency.
In the event of a serious injury or illness, quick access to the kit is vital. First aid kits should be kept in a prominent, accessible location and able to be retrieved promptly. Access should also be ensured in security-controlled workplaces. First aid kits should be located close to areas where there is a higher risk of injury or illness.
Emergency floor plans displayed in the workplace should include the location of first aid kits.
Depending on your work site you may need different medical kits for different injuries that may have been covered under a workplace risk management process.
A person should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit (usually a first aider) and should:
- monitor access to the first aid kit and ensure any items used are replaced as soon as practicable after use
- undertake regular checks (after each use or, if the kit is not used, at least once every 12 months) to ensure the kit contains a complete set of the required items
- ensure that items are in good working order, have not deteriorated and are within their expiry dates and that sterile products are sealed and have not been tampered with.
Injury record keeping
A record of any first aid treatment given should be kept by the first aider and reported to management on a regular basis to assist in reviewing first aid arrangements.
First aid allowances
Check your enterprise agreement to see if you are entitled to an allowance for being a first aid attendant. Most agreements do pay a small allowance to staff who have attended first training supplied by the company.
If you already hold a certified first aid ticket and it is still in date, the company may recognise it. Speak with your manager and be sure to provide a copy of your certificate/s.
Remember - ensure you report all unsafe practices at work. Your Union wants you to leave work the same way you arrived at work.
If you have any questions around first aid or workplace safety, contact the SDA on 1300 732 HELP (1300 732 4357).