How to complete a first aid needs assessment for your workplace

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Alice Squires
Publish Date:
03 Oct 2023
Reading Time:
7 Mins

Do you need help completing a first aid needs assessment for your workplace? It may seem like a daunting task at first, but it needn’t be difficult and it’s worth getting it right.

To help you, we’ll talk you through the key steps you need to follow to complete a first aid needs assessment (sometimes wrongly called a first aid risk assessment).


What is a first aid needs assessment and why do I need one?

It’s a legal requirement for employers to conduct a first aid needs assessment (sometimes referred to as a first aid risk assessment), but the main motivation for doing one should always be employee wellbeing.

By completing a first aid needs assessment, you can better understand the specific requirements of your environment and ensure that you have the necessary resources and training in place to provide effective first aid when it is needed most.

A good first aid needs assessment helps you to decide what qualifies as ‘adequate and appropriate’ first aid equipment and facilities. It also helps you to choose an adequate number of ‘suitable persons’ to take responsibility for first aid. In other words, the assessment is your route to defining and implementing provision that’s compliant and delivers high standards of safety.


How do you complete a first aid needs assessment?

Your first aid risk assessment needs to focus on the specific conditions of your working environment, your workforce and any hazards and risks that may be present.

The Health & Safety Executive recommends you consider the following factors:

  • The nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks.
  • The nature of the workforce.
  • The organisation’s history of accidents.
  • The size of the organisation.
  • The needs of travelling, remote and lone workers.
  • Work patterns.
  • The distribution of the workforce.
  • The remoteness of the site from emergency medical services.
  • Employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites.
  • Annual leave and other absences of first-aiders and appointed persons.
  • First-aid provision for non-employees.

Let’s take a closer look at what these steps mean, and how they can help you create a good first aid needs assessment.


The nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks

The first step in conducting a needs assessment is to understand the nature of the work and identify potential workplace hazards and risks. Different industries and work environments will have varying levels of risk. For example, construction sites will have a higher risk of accidents and injuries compared to an office setting. By identifying these hazards and risks, organisations can better determine the level of first aid provision required, both in terms of suitable first aid equipment and the number of first aiders they require.


The nature of the workforce

The composition of your workforce also has an influence on the first aid provision you need. Factors such as age, pre-existing health conditions, the physical demands of the job, and the presence of vulnerable individuals (such as disabled or pregnant people) all need to be considered.


The organisation's history of accidents

Analysing your organisation's history of accidents gives you an insight into what type of first aid provision has been needed in the past. It also helps you to take steps to try and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. If you identify a higher frequency of certain accidents or types of injury, this may indicate that you need additional first aid training, equipment or personnel.


The size of the organisation

It’s important to look at both the size of your organisation both in terms of employee numbers and the physical layout of your premises. For example, if your workplace is spread over a number of levels in the same building, you’ll need to make sure that adequate first aid boxes are available on each floor. Similarly, the number of employees you have will determine the optimal number of first aiders you need (see below for information on how to calculate this).


The needs of travelling, remote and lone workers

If you have travelling, remote, or lone workers, you need to ensure they have access to adequate first aid provision. As a minimum, you should make sure they have a suitable first aid kit and a suitable method of contacting the emergency services, such as a company mobile phone.


Work patterns

Work patterns need to be taken into account when conducting a first aid needs assessment. This includes documenting any shift work, night shifts, or any other irregular work patterns. This is particularly important when determining how many trained first aiders you need on the premises at any given time.


Distribution of the workforce

If your workforce operates across multiple locations, it’s particularly important to consider the distribution of your workforce. Each site should have an appropriate level of first aid provision and sufficient first aiders.

It’s best practice to conduct a separate needs assessment for each premises, or each part of a premises with a different function (for example, you should do separate assessments for a factory’s shop floor and its administrative offices).


Remoteness of the site from the emergency services

If your workplace is located in a remote area or at a distance from the emergency services, you may need to make additional first aid provision to bridge the gap between an incident occurring and medical help arriving. If your workplace has specific risks or hazards such as chemicals or high voltage electricity, it’s sensible to let the emergency services know in advance.


Employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites

If you share a site with other organisations (for example, in an office building that’s home to different companies), you can designate a single employer to take responsibility for first aid across the site. To do this effectively, all employers need to share information about hazards and risks to ensure they create an adequate first aid needs assessment.

You will also need to agree on procedures that make sure all employees have access to adequate first aid provision. A written agreement between employers should clarify who has overall responsibility for first aid.


Annual leave and other absences of first-aiders and appointed persons

The availability of first aiders and appointed persons can be affected by annual leave, absences and other factors. You need to make contingency plans that will ensure adequate numbers of first aiders are always present.


First-aid provision for non-employees

While you have no legal duty to provide first aid for visitors, it’s both wise and ethical to do so. If contractors, students, children or others visit your workplace, it’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate first aid provision for them. If you assess the maximum number of visitors who are likely to be onsite at any given time, you can boost your first aid provision and number of trained first aiders accordingly.


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What impact does your needs assessment have on first aid provision?

If followed correctly, your first aid needs assessment should identify the unique hazards and risks within your workplace and you should be able to evaluate what provisions are needed based on this. After undertaking the assessment, you can expect to identify:

1. Specific hazards that could result in injury or illness

Your assessment will identify specific hazards and associated risks that determine the level first aid provision you need. These might include things like chemicals, electricity or machinery or, more commonly, manual handling, slip and trip hazards and workplace transport. Factors like these will determine what first aid equipment you need and the type of training your first aiders will need.

2. What equipment you need

The hazards you identify will inform the level of first aid provision you require. As a minimum you’ll need a sufficient number of well-stocked first aid boxes, ideally meeting the BS 8599-1 standard. For riskier environments, you may decide you need specialist first aid equipment (such as for treating burns, poisoning or crush injuries) or even dedicated first aid rooms.

3. How many first aiders you need

Employee numbers – and the level of hazard in the workplace – also determine the minimum number and type of first aiders you need.

There are three main types of first aider:

To help you decide how many first aiders you need, we’ve written a guide on how many first aiders are required for a workplace. This shows you the minimum numbers (and types) of first aiders you’ll need, which you can calculate based on the number of employees you have and the level of hazard in the workplace.

Remember to take into account that people will sometimes be absent or on holiday, so you’ll need enough trained staff to make sure there are sufficient first aiders at all times.


Review your first aid needs assessment regularly

A good first aid needs assessment is never set in stone. To make sure you continue to comply with the regulations, you need to update it regularly. It’s good practice to review the assessment at least annually, but you’ll also need to update it if workplace conditions change.

Here are some examples:

  • You hire more people, meaning you don’t have enough trained first aiders to cover the minimum requirements.
  • An accident highlights a risk that hasn’t been provided for in your current first aid needs assessment.
  • An employee has a heart attack, so you update your first aid needs assessment to reflect this.
  • New activities are introduced to your workplace which haven’t been covered by your existing assessment.

If you’re in doubt whether your assessment needs updating, do it! Even if you don’t have to change it, it will give you peace of mind that you’re complying with the first aid regulations. While there’s no requirement to write down your needs assessment, it’s best practice as it makes your findings easier to communicate and you can refer to it and amend it as needed.


What next?

We hope this guide to completing a first aid needs assessment has been helpful. While it should make the process easier for you, it’s important to remember that the larger the company and the higher the number of hazards in the workplace, the more difficult it is to get it right. You may find our blog post on How the first aid regulations may affect the employer’s responsibilities useful when determining provision.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we’ve created a first aid needs assessment template you can download for free. If you’re about to undertake your first assessment, it can help you save time if you are able to do it in conjunction with someone experienced. There’s nothing like learning from someone else to demystify the process.

Finally, if your needs assessment highlights that you haven’t got enough trained first aiders, be sure to check out the British Red Cross’s courses. We not only offer FAW and EFAW qualifications, but we provide more specialist courses both in person and online.

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