Should first aid arrangements in your workplace factor in non-employees?

First aider helping a casualty in the workplace
Alice Squires
Publish Date:
03 Oct 2023
Reading Time:
5 Mins

Employers are legally obligated to provide adequate and appropriate first aid provision for their employees. This is to ensure workers receive immediate treatment if they sustain injury or become ill at work.

When it comes to non-employees, the situation is different. The Health & Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 do not place a legal obligation on employers to have first aid provision for people who do not work for them. This includes members of the public, such as customers in shops. However, HSE strongly recommends that you include non-employees in your first aid provision.

It is important to acknowledge that while first aid for children is not a legal requirement under the Health & Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, an obligation to provide Paediatric first aid training may be required under other directives, such as the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS).

Even though the law does not say you have to provide first aid to customers or other visitors to your premises, there are many good reasons for doing so.


Good reasons to provide first aid for non-employees

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ‘strongly recommends that non-employees are included in an assessment of first aid needs and that provision is made for them.’

Doing so offers significant benefits for your organisation. These include:

  • Ethical responsibility. As the owner or operator of the premises, you have a duty of care towards customers and visitors. By offering adequate and appropriate first aid provision, you demonstrate an ethical commitment to their safety and well-being. It can also save lives.
  • Reputation management. If an incident occurs and you are unable to provide first aid to a member of the public, it can result in damage to your brand and reputation.
  • Liability reduction. Having suitable first aid provision can help mitigate potential legal liabilities and claims for negligence. If an incident occurs on your premises, it will stand you in good stead if appropriate first aid measures were in place before the event occurred. This is because it indicates you planned effectively for potential emergencies.
  • A safer working environment. If you expand your first aid provision to include members of the public, you will almost certainly have extra equipment and more trained first aiders on the premises. This enhances employee and visitor safety.

While first aid for non-employees is not compulsory, you may benefit from ethical, reputational and commercial advantages. Fortunately, extending your first aid provision need not be complicated, as the following steps show.

1. Conduct a first aid needs assessment

A robust first aid needs assessment is crucial for determining the provision you should have in place. The HSE advises that you consider ‘circumstances of your workplace, workforce and the hazards and risks’ that may be present. This allows you to determine what first aid equipment and facilities to provide, as well as how many first aiders you need to train.

To ensure your provision is adequate to cover non-employees, it is wise to include them in your assessment. Consider factors such as the nature of the work, the layout of the premises, and any specific risks associated with the business or industry.

In many cases you will not know about visitors’ or customers’ physical health, skill level, or special needs, so you will not be able to account for these factors in detail in your assessment. Instead, you just need to make sure that provision is reasonable, such as by providing extra first aid kits or by training more staff as first aiders.

2. Raise awareness of first aid arrangements

You need to assume that customers or visitors to your premises will not know about your first aid arrangements. Plus, even fully-trained, experienced members of staff can be prone to forgetting takeaways from their training, if they panic when under pressure.

Therefore, if possible, raise awareness by displaying clear signage that indicates the location of first aid kits, emergency exits, and numbers to call if there is an incident or accident.

If you are able to speak to visitors or contractors in person when they arrive at your site, be sure to brief them on what first aid provision you have, what they should do in case of an emergency and who to contact for first aid assistance.

3. Ensure first aid equipment is accessible

Your needs assessment will have helped you determine what first aid equipment to provide. This might include first aid kits, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and other emergency supplies. It is highly advisable to consider if equipment is easily accessible, or if support from a staff member is required to access it.

Pay particular attention if your premises have multiple stories or mixed layouts (such as a factory floor with attached offices). In these cases, you will need to make sure relevant first aid equipment is accessible throughout the site. You may choose to have different types of first aid kits with different access, depending on their content.

4. Use emergency communication systems

If there is an emergency, non-employees need to know how to respond and be aware of first aid procedures in the workplace. This is particularly important at sites where there may be many members of the public, such as customers in a supermarket.

You can use a range of channels to communicate information and instructions in an emergency. These could include public address systems, visual alerts, or designated individuals who are responsible for telling non-employees about vital safety procedures.

However, it is worth noting that there are times when a simpler approach is appropriate. Overly complicated technology or processes can have an adverse effect, raising more questions, instead of providing help.


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Boost first aid arrangements and training

While you need a minimum number of first aiders based on the nature of your business and the number of employees you have, you can train as many as you like. Indeed, it can be highly cost-effective to train additional employees in Emergency first aid at work (EFAW) or the more comprehensive First aid at work (FAW) qualification. Having multiple first-aiders at your disposal allows for faster treatment, improving recovery time and reducing the amount of time employees are absent from work.

As a minimum, provide basic first aid awareness training to employees who regularly interact with non-employees. This can help ensure they can respond promptly and appropriately to assist non-employees in an emergency and provide care until professional medical help arrives.

Even better, you can designate EFAW or FAW-trained personnel to have exclusive responsibility for coordinating and responding to emergencies involving non-employees. However, it is important not to delay treatment to an injured or ill person, if the designated personnel is not available.


Summary: why first-aid provision for non-employees makes sense

While the law does not obligate employers to make first-aid provision for non-employees, there are few good reasons to. By providing adequate amounts of equipment and trained first aiders, it shows you take your duty of care to visitors and customers seriously. It also helps protect your reputation and can help mitigate potential legal liabilities if there is an accident or someone is taken ill.

Above all, by factoring in first aid procedures in the workplace for non-employees, you make your premises safer for everyone – whether they are a customer, a visitor, or a worker.

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