Q&A on needs assessments

A construction worker checks for a response from his colleague, who has had an accident

Although fatal injuries at work are rare, workplace fatality rates are slightly increasing according to a recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report.

The HSE says "a good risk assessment will help avoid accidents and ill health, which can not only ruin lives, but can also increase costs to business through lost output, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums." 

We asked David Rees, health and safety development officer for the British Red Cross, to explain more about the importance of needs assessments and what's involved in completing one. 

What does the law say about needs assessments?

Organisations must comply with the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, which state that:

  • employers should provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work
  • what is 'adequate and appropriate' will depend on the circumstances in the workplace
  • employers should carry out an assessment of first aid needs to determine what to provide.

What should employers do?

You're legally required to arrange for the immediate care of any of your staff who have an accident or become ill while they're at work, so you should:

  • assess the hazards and risks involved in your workplace (to help you determine how many first aiders you need and what training they should have)
  • provide appropriate equipment and enough trained first aiders to help injured or ill staff.

What should a needs assessment consider?

  • Organisation size – how many first aiders do you need?
  • The nature of your work – are your staff at risk of specific accidents or injuries?
  • If you have multiple sites – you may require a first aider in each area.
  • Distance to further assistance e.g. hospital, A&E department.

You should also think about any staff who:

  • have medical conditions – do you need specific training for these? 
  • travel, work alone or remotely – do they need a mobile phone and first aid box in case of emergency? 
  • work in shifts or out-of-hours – what arrangements do you need to make for each shift?

If your organisation deals with members of the public you should also consider this in your needs assessment.

You should also consider any previous incidents, which may help in identifying further risks.

With the summer holiday season just around the corner, it’s important to remember that accidents can happen at any time and you should ensure you have cover if your dedicated first aider is on annual leave. 

What is the role of the Health and Safety Executive?

The HSE is not required to approve first aid training and qualifications, so as an employer, you are free to choose a first aid training provider. However you are responsible for ensuring the quality of your chosen training provider and for choosing the appropriate training.

The HSE do not accredit first aid at work courses, but they do provide a syllabus for appropriate content on a first aid at work course, contact hours, course duration and advice on choosing the appropriate training, in order to maintain high standards of first aid training. They also provide a due diligence checklist to help employers select and evaluate a first aid training provider.

What if I am self-employed?

You should make appropriate first aid arrangements for your working environment (even if you work from home). If you work on a site with other self-employed people, you are each responsible for making your own first aid arrangement, but may choose to make joint arrangements.

How do I book a first aid training course?

To receive advice on your training requirements, call our team of expert advisers on 0845 485 3497 or visit our click here.

View sample* first aid needs assessments below:
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Supermarket
  • Hospitality
  • Small office

* Please note that the needs assessments should only be used as a guide to help you think through some of the hazards in your business and the steps you need to take to control the risks.

© British Red Cross 2019