What is the minimum level of first aid provision required?

First aider learning to use a sling
Alice Squires
Publish Date:
03 Oct 2023
Reading Time:
5 Mins

Accidents and medical emergencies can happen at any time and in any place, which is why having adequate first aid provision is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals.

In the UK, there are certain minimum requirements for first aid provision that employers must adhere to. These are outlined in the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, but they depend on factors such as the size and nature of your workplace, how many employees you have, plus the hazards and risks you have identified in the first aid needs assessment.

In this blog, we take a look at the basic first aid provision you are likely to need as well as looking at some of the benefits of exceeding it.


First aid needs assessment

All UK employers are legally required to undertake a first aid needs assessment for their workplaces. This is a key activity that allows you to determine the provision you need. It also helps you identify areas where it would be much safer to go beyond the minimum requirements.

While your first aid needs assessment does not need to be written down, we strongly recommend that you do so. If you do, you have proof that you have met your legal obligations and taken steps to make your workplace as safe as possible. It also gives you a valuable document that you can review and refine regularly to take changing circumstances into account.

We have written a useful guide on how to complete a first aid needs assessment for your workplace.

By doing so, you will be able to work out:

  • How many first aiders you need.
  • What level of training your first aiders require.
  • What first aid equipment you need.
  • Emergency procedures and plans.
  • How to handle accident reporting.


How many first aiders are required in a workplace?

The law is clear on how many first aiders you need at work. Depending on the nature of your work and the number of employees you have, you will likely need one or more of the following first aid personnel.

An appointed person

This is someone with responsibility for taking care of first aid equipment and calling the emergency services when needed. They are not required to undergo training, but if they do complete one of the two first aid courses below, they will learn practical skills that could save lives in an emergency.

An EFAW trained first aider

This is someone who has completed a 1-day Emergency first aid at work qualification. Delegates learn a wide range of skills and techniques for helping someone who becomes injured or unwell.

A FAW trained first aider

This is someone who has undergone 3-day First aid at work training. This is a much more in-depth course and gives individuals a wide range of first aid skills that are particularly valuable in higher-risk workplaces. Upon expiry of the 3 day course, first aiders can renew their qualification by completing a 2-day First aid at work requalification course.

The minimum number of trained first raiders or appointed persons that you need will depend on whether you have a low-risk or higher-risk work environment. For low-risk workplaces, you will need one appointed person if you have fewer than 25 employees or one EFAW trained first aider if there are between 25 and 50 people. If you have over 50 workers, you will need at least one FAW trained person per 100 people (or part thereof).

In higher-risk environments, additional first aiders are required. If there are fewer than five employees you need an appointed person. If you have 5 to 50 workers, you will need either one person trained in EFAW or FAW depending on the types of injuries that might occur in the working environment. When you have over 50 people in the workplace you need one FAW trained individual per 50 people (or part thereof).


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Should I stick to the minimum number of first aiders?

We would strongly recommend you have more trained first aiders than you need. If you only require an appointed person, it makes your workplace safer if they are also trained in first aid. If you are a larger employer, the more people you have with EFAW and FAW qualifications, the better – it increases the chance of a trained person being able to handle accidents or illness quickly.

It is also worth remembering that you need the minimum number of first aiders on the premises at all times, including during shifts and night working. If you only have the bare minimum and one or more of your first aiders is ill, absent, or on holiday, then you may not have enough trained personnel on site.

Remember, it is important for your first aiders to keep their skills fresh and up to date. For example, if you have FAW trained personnel, they can undertake a first aid annual refresher course, in between formal requalification.


First aid kits and related equipment

When it comes to equipment, the minimum you will need is a suitably stocked first aid kit. While you can buy first aid kits that comply with British Standard BS 8599-1, these will not necessarily meet the needs of your specific workplace.

Use the findings from your first aid needs assessment to determine what you should include in your first aid kits and what other equipment you require. For example, if your employees work with chemicals you would need to include items to treat splashes on both skin and eyes. If you have employees with a history of heart problems, you could choose to install one or more Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

In addition to making sure you have got the right equipment, you also need to make sure you have enough of it and that it is easily accessible. Achieving this could be as simple as providing one or more first aid kits on every floor of your premises. Remember that all first aid equipment and kits should be regularly checked and restocked as necessary.


Emergency procedures and plans

Having clear and effective emergency procedures and plans in place is crucial for managing various situations. These plans should outline the steps to be taken in the event of an accident or medical emergency, including who to contact, how to evacuate the premises if necessary and where to assemble for a headcount. Regular drills and practising of emergency procedures can help ensure that everyone knows what to do during an unforeseen incident.

It is possible that you will need to provide safety signs and signals to meet your obligations. The Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 define these as things like ‘no entry’ signs, acoustic signals such as sirens and pre-recorded evacuation messages.

As a minimum, you must provide safety signs and signals where other methods cannot deal effectively with certain risks, or where using a sign can reduce the risk further.


First aid and accident reporting

There are certain accidents and incidents that must be reported to the Health & Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). These include deaths, serious injuries such as amputations and most types of fracture, occupational diseases, gas incidents and dangerous incidents, such as the collapse or overturning of lifting equipment.

Even if an accident is not reportable under RIDDOR, we recommend you record it in a company accident book. This documentation helps you to identify trends or recurring issues, allowing you to take preventative measures to help reduce risks in the future. Accident reports also serve as essential records for compliance and insurance purposes.

Accident records can be completed by anyone, but you may prefer them to be done by a first aider, appointed person, or a manager to ensure sufficient information is provided. Once completed, these records must be securely stored and handled in accordance with the current data protection regulations. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of an employer to ensure compliance in this regard.


Should I offer more than the minimum first aid provision?

As an employer, you need to put in place the minimum first aid provision required by law; it is your call whether you decide to offer more.

That said, offering more than the minimum first aid provision contributes to a safer and healthier environment. The benefits can be particularly pronounced for smaller businesses.

Research indicates that smaller enterprises generally have higher injury rates per employee compared to larger organisations. This can be attributed to various factors, including fewer resources for safety management, smaller numbers of dedicated safety personnel, and potentially higher exposure to physical hazards due to the nature of the work.

Other advantages of offering enhanced first aid provision include:

Enhanced safety and coverage

Having additional first aid equipment and trained first aiders can lead to quicker assistance and an increased likelihood of being able to treat an injury or illness.

Faster recovery

Prompt and effective first aid response can help injured employees return to work sooner, reducing downtime and maintaining productivity.

Empowerment and team building.

Involving multiple employees in first aid training fosters a sense of empowerment and teamwork, creating a more cohesive and caring work environment.

Reputation management

Investing in first aid demonstrates a commitment to the health and safety. This improves the company's reputation amongst staff and non-employees.


What next?

As we have seen, there are minimum levels of first aid provision that employers need to put in place. These include everything from the number of appropriately trained first aiders in the workplace and the type of first aid equipment you need, right through to emergency procedures and accident reporting.

While the minimum provision required varies from employer to employer, it pays dividends to go further. Training additional first aiders, investing in extra equipment and recording all accidents – no matter how minor – will help manage risk and create a safer workplace.

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First aid provision for businesses

Our guide 'First aid provision in the workplace: A Guide for Businesses' will help you understand your legal obligations in the workplace for providing first aid.

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