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Taking Care of Employees: The Basics of First Aid in the Workplace

Photo: Taking Care of Employees: The Basics of First Aid in the Workplace
First aid entails responsibility that should be shared by both the employers and employees. In a recent study about work-related injuries that occurred during the financial year 2013-2014, the economic cost of these types of injuries added up to an amount that is close to 4% of Australia’s GDP. It is, therefore, imperative to note how crucial first aid is in a workplace.

Companies must provide sufficient and suitable equipment, facilities, and training. Conversely, employees need to learn how to respond to any given emergency situation at any given time. The Work Health and Safety laws (WHS) provide a clear-cut guideline that properly addresses first aid matters in the workplace.
The Regulations are applicable to all workplaces – remote, mobile, or outdoors. Apart from the personnel, they cover all persons in a work area including visitors and customers. It is strongly recommended that their needs are taken into account when planning first aid.

Related CPD training: Basic Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – Developed by LearnEM 

A Quick Guideline to First Aid
It’s important that you are guided on how to be first aid compliant. What counts as 'adequate' first aid provision depends on circumstances in the workplace. The minimum first aid provision is:
  • A first aid box
  • A point person to take charge of first aid activities

First aid provision must be available at all times whenever people are at work.

First Aid Assessment Requirements
It is the duty of the employer to carefully study any risk assessment plan that was previously made. The plan needs to be appropriate for the nature of the work, the size of the workplace, the number of employees and past occurrences of emergencies.

All of these should be taken into account:

Dangers and Threats
  • Hazardous substances or chemicals
  • Tools and equipment that require professional and skilled users and manual handling responsibilities
  • Electrical shock risks

When these dangers and threats are identified, the plan needs to include:
  • The location of these materials and a map identifying the different risk levels for every area
  • A comprehensive report of the number of workplace-related accidents and diseases

The Workplace Layout
  • The floor area
  • Proximity to other establishments and infrastructures
  • The general public’s participation (if any) and where it usually occurs

For example, companies with a multi-level building must calculate how many first aiders and/or point persons are needed for sufficient provision on each floor. Everyone must be well accounted for. A point person must be able to respond at any given time even if the risk level is low or there are only few staff members in the workplace.

After carrying out an assessment, companies can then identify their first aid requirements. Low risk working environments such as offices are required to have the minimum of the first aid provision. A clearly identified and sufficiently stocked first aid box is among those requirements.

Personnel
  • The number of workers for every work area including expected visitors and guests at any given time
  • Expecting or nursing mothers, the skill level of every worker, and a provision for persons with disabilities
  • Man hours and work schedule patterns
  • Graveyard shift
  • The workplace’s traffic – route of equipment and pathways

Who is a Point Person?
A point person is chosen by the company to carry out the following:
  • Step in when someone requires assistance due to illness or injury, which includes calling an ambulance if necessary
  • Manage and maintain the first aid box, including the replenishment of supplies
  • Keep a record of injuries/emergencies and the appropriate course of action that took place
  • This personnel should NOT give first aid for which they have not been trained. They are not legally obliged to have any official training to carry out their duties. Nonetheless, courses are available.

First Aid Personnel vs Point Person?
A first aider is someone who has completed relevant training needed for the specific requirements of their workplace. They will be issued an appropriate certification to testify to their competence at either emergency first aid, first aid at work or another equivalent prerequisite.

Low-risk workplaces may require only a point person and not a first aider. As already mentioned, point persons are not required to have professional training. They act as a beacon for emergencies, the go-to-guy for any health related concern.

A first aider, on the other hand, is equipped with the pertinent knowledge to alleviate pain and discomfort, or address any given emergency.

It is nevertheless important to know that the requirement for a first aider or a point person depends on your first aid assessment.

The Number of First Aiders in a Workplace
The required number of first aiders depends on the nature of the job and the number of employees. It is also important to take into consideration special factors like the number of shifts and sites where the company operates.

The WHS Act has a comprehensive and detailed guideline on how to make an assessment of these factors.

Shops, offices, and libraries fit into the low-risk category. They should have at least one point person for every fifty employees. If the number of people at a workplace is bigger than fifty but less than one hundred, a certified first aider is required. For those establishments with more than one hundred employees, an additional first aider is needed for every additional hundred of employees.

Light engineering workplaces, food processing plants, and warehouses are categorized under the medium risk category. One point person is required for every twenty employees. A first aider is required for companies that employ between 20 and 100 people. There is the same requirement for having more than one hundred employees as in the low-risk category.

Construction sites, chemicals manufacture, and work with hazardous machinery are among those categorised under a high-risk category. The requirements are consequently rigid. A point person must be present even if there are only five or fewer people employed. There should be at least one first aider for every fifty employees.

The most practical way of handling your first aid requirement is through a third party assessor. Not meeting the first aid requirements for your company mean that you can be severely fined. That is not the worst that can happen - some of your employees can get seriously hurt.

It is not hard to find a free booklet about how to be first aid compliant online and see if you have everything that it takes. If in doubt, always contact professionals and ask for help.

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