“What should I have in my first aid kit?”; not a week goes by when we do not get asked this question.
To start off with, there isn’t a mandatory list of items that need to be included in a first-aid kit, the decision on what to provide will be influenced by the findings of the first-aid needs assessment.
Following the launch in 2018 of the Get wise leaflet to First Aid kits in the workplace by the BHTA First Aid and Medical Equipment (FAME) section a NEW British Standard specification has just been launched to update the contents of workplace first aid BS 8599-1:2019. This is replacing the British Standards Institute Specification for the contents of a workplace first aid kit BS 8599-1 (2011).
Although the old standard (BS 8599-1:2011) will still be operational over the course of a 12-month transition period to allow employers to make the change, it is best to familiarise yourself with all the changes and to get your business up to specification as soon as possible.
One of the most immediately obvious changes relates to the updated size standards that are included in BS 8599-1:2019. These standards also amended the recommended quantities for workplace first aid kits and designate three size categories in this regard. The main changes are as follows:
- Small workplace first aid kit: 2 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 4), 2 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required, as they are replaced with microporous tape.
- Medium workplace first aid kit: 4 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 6), 3 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 2), 2 rolls of microporous tape (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required.
- Large workplace first aid kit: 6 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 8), 4 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 2), 3 rolls of microporous tape (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required.
The standard also restates how many first aid kits will be required for the number of people in a given workplace. In addition, it is important to note that the standard states that where there are special circumstances in a particular workplace, such as remoteness from emergency services, the quantity of first aid kits should be increased as needed. As such, the following list should not be taken as authoritative and your individual needs should be carefully assessed.
For low hazard workplaces the requirements are:
- Fewer than 25 employees: 1 small workplace first aid kit.
- From 25-100 employees: 1 medium workplace first aid kit.
- Over 100 employees: 1 large workplace first aid kit per 100 employees.
For high hazard work environments, the requirements are slightly more stringent:
- Fewer than five employees: 1 small first workplace first aid kit
- From 5-25 employees: 1 medium workplace first aid kit
- More than 25 employees: 1 large kit per 25 employees
Two principal changes have been made since the 2011 standard was published:
- Personal issue kit and critical injury pack categories have been added to the list
- The travel kit has been altered to match the medium vehicle kit covered in the revision of BS 8599-2:2014
However, there are two sources of guidance which will provide a starting point of contents;
- HSE’s Guidance on the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (L74)
As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, a minimum stock of first-aid items might be:
- a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid
- individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (hypoallergenic plasters can be provided if necessary);
- sterile eye pads;
- individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile;
- safety pins;
- large sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings;
- medium-sized sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings;
- disposable gloves
- British Standards Institute Specification for the contents of a workplace first aid kit BS 8599-1: 2019
The below would be representative of a medium sized first aid kit
- 2 x Conforming Bandage
- 3 x Non-Sterile Non-woven Triangular Bandage
- 2 x Foil Space Blanket – Silver – Adult Size
- 1 x General First Aid Guidance Card
- 2 x Burnshield Dressing
- 30 x Alcohol-Free Wipe in Foil Sachet
- 9 x Purple Nitrile Examination Gloves (pairs)
- 3 x No 7 Sterile Finger Dressing
- 3 x Eye Pad Sterile Dressing
- 6 x Medium Sterile Dressing
- 2 x Large Sterile Dressing
- 60 x Assorted Waterproof Plasters
- 1 x Low Allergy Tape
- 1 x Mouth-To-Mouth Resuscitation Face Shield
- 1 x Trauma Shears – Black
- 2 x Safety Pins, Assorted – Bunch of 6
Did you know that the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) First Aid Guidelines 2015 state that when direct pressure cannot control severe bleeding, haemostatic dressings and tourniquets are to be used?
Time is critical when treating severe injuries in the field and saving time increases the chance of survival for the casualty in an emergency or hostile situation. To be effective in real use, haemostatic dressings need to work fast.
Hemostatic dressings are a wound dressing that contains an agent that promotes blood clotting.
First Aid kits should be checked regularly to confirm they are appropriately stocked and that the items have not passed their expiry date, this will vary on different products from 3 to 5 years.
The BS 8599-1: 2019 details the components required in small, medium, large, travel and personal issue first aid kits and critical injury packs for use in workplace environments. It also gives requirements for the container holding the components.
The standard contains two key tables: one covering what should be contained in a workplace first aid kit and one providing information on the appropriate size of the first aid kit for the workplace environment.
Such kits encourage those responsible for first aid kits to build a comprehensive kit for common workplace first aid requirements. These promote employer and employee safety and help first aiders and emergency responders provide treatment advice based on available resources.
The standard also supports the requirement for all employers to have first aid kits in the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 – although this standard’s use is not mandatory.