What Are the Legal Requirements for First Aid at Work?
What is first aid? First aid is the process of administering immediate care to a person who is suffering from an injury or illness. The goal is to prevent the condition from worsening and to preserve life until professional medical emergency services are present.
Depending on the type of workplace, WHS laws may require your business to provide specific kits, facilities, and staff training to prepare for life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
Here is what you should know about the legal requirements for offering first aid at work.
First Aid in the Workplace
First aid in the workplace refers to the first aid arrangements that a business has implemented to prepare for workplace injuries.
Every business, no matter the size or industry, should at least have a basic first aid kit present in their area of operations. These kits typically contain bandages, tweezers, pain relievers, antiseptic wipes, gauze, and instant cold packs.
Larger scale operations may need a specific facility that is solely dedicated to first aid. These facilities may include stretchers, upright chairs, couches, and various cupboards and storage compartments for additional supplies.
If the location spans a large area or multiple floors, the business may require multiple facilities along with additional staff trained to administer first aid.
What Does the Law Say About First Aid?
Under the Work Health Safety (WHS) laws, employers have a legal duty to maintain reasonably safe work environments. Employers should always prioritise the health and safety of every worker.
Whilst not outlined specifically in WHS/OSH legislation, first aid kit availability requirements can fall under the duty of care principles of an employer/PCBU
The WHS laws require employers to provide workers access to first aid equipment and facilities. Businesses also need to provide access to appropriately trained first aiders.
Businesses may find practical guidance for compliance in the Model Code of Practice: First Aid in the Workplace.
The code of practice outlines guidance about the first aid requirements and recommendations of an organisation. This includes ensuring practical risk assessments are performed, equipment is suitable and readily available, and first aid officers are identified and trained.
The guidelines offer two options for complying with safety regulations. Employers may use the ‘prescribed approach’ or ‘risk assessment approach’.
The primary difference between the two options is how businesses determine their varying duties under the WHS Act. With the prescribed approach, employers follow detailed recommendations based on the size of the workforce and the type of work. With the risk assessment approach, businesses complete their own assessments and enact their own individual controls to best suit their business operations.
The prescribed approach includes specific guidelines, starting with the categorisation of low-risk and high-risk workplaces.
Employers also need to consider the size of their workforce. Based on the two criteria, the prescribed approach provides a series of recommendations. The recommendations include the number of required first aid officers,first aid kits, and facilities.
In a location with a reduced chance of injury, the code of practice recommends one kit for every 10 to 50 employees. The company should also provide one additional kit for every 50 employees up to 200 workers. After 200 workers, they should add another kit for every 100 workers.
Higher-risk locations require additional first aid kits. Some industries also require specific first aid training modules to address injuries that are more likely to occur. For example, workers who risk exposure to chemicals may need specialised equipment in the event of a chemical first aid incident.
Risk Assessment Approach
The risk assessment approach requires businesses to complete their own assessments to determine the need for emergency aid equipment, facilities, and first aiders. The assessment typically includes a detailed review of the following factors:
- The type of work being performed;
- The potential hazards;
- The size and location; and
- The number of workers.
Based on the above details, employers need to establish their own first aid requirements. This allows employers to choose the location for aid facilities and the number of kits required.
No matter if the employer uses the prescribed or risk assessment approach, they need to maintain records of any treatment given to a worker. After an emergency, the officer completes a first aid incident report. Please note that if a business operates in Victoria, the reporting records need to comply with the requirements outlined in the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
What Is the Role of First Aid Officers?
A first aid officer is a designated worker with the necessary first aid training. Officers are required to earn a statement of attainment from a nationally recognised registered training organisation (RTO).
The code of practice recommends first aid officers for businesses over a certain size. It also categorises businesses based on the inherent risks of the job duties.
Low-risk workplaces include banks, offices, libraries, and retail shops. In these industries, businesses with fewer than 10 workers do not need first aid officers. For larger businesses, SafeWork Australia recommends the following:
- One for businesses with 10 to 50 workers;
- Two for 51 to 100 workers; and
- One additional officer for every 100 more workers.
High-risk workplaces include construction sites, hazardous material plants and mines. Workers at risk of electric shock, falls, spinal injuries, and serious lacerations have a higher risk of injury. The recommendations include:
- One for the first 25 workers;
- Two for 26 to 50 workers; and
- One additional officer for every 50 more workers.
To meet the minimum requirements for training, workers must earn the senior first aid certificate. The competency-based equivalent is ‘HLTFA301B Apply First Aid’. However, higher-risk environments may require officers to complete advanced first aid training.
First Aid Training
Before enrolling in a training program, workers should ensure that they select e a registered training organisation such as AlertForce. RTO’s offer courses online or in person.
First aid training includes instructions for dealing with a wide variety of emergency situations. During the training, you may reenact or smiulate first aid to deal with issues such as:
- Traumatic injuries; and/or
- Extreme temperatures.
Of course, the risks often depend on the work environment. Office workers are less likely to suffer from a serious injury in their working environment when compared to a miner.
In summary, every employer is required to provide workers with a reasonably safe place to work. This requirement covers a range of business, from retail and professional services, all the way through to the ‘higher-risk’ industries of s mining and construction.
Low-risk locations, including retail shops and offices, may simply need a kit with the basic emergency supplies. However, 10 or more workers require a trained first aider. Some businesses may also require dedicated facilities for treating injuries or illnesses.
To ensure that your workplace complies with WHS laws, consider the size of the workplace and the type of work and then choose one of the two approaches.
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