3 min read

5 big questions on first aid – and their answers

By Andrew Hobbs

Ensuring that you can provide first aid in your workplace is an essential part of your duty of care, but it can be challenging to know how best to do this.

They say you can work out the answer to any big question by relying on the five Ws – What, Who, Where, When and Why.

Today, we take a look at the 5 key questions you need to ask yourself about first aid in your workplace.

What do you need to provide?

This might be the first question many of you will ask – what does the law require me to do?

Health and safety legislation in each state and territory says the primary duty of care holder, i.e. the employer or person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), has an obligation to provide adequate facilities for the welfare of their workers.

First aid is one of these requirements. Under the harmonised Work Health and Safety Regulations, which apply in the ACT, NSW, NT, SA, Queensland and Tasmania, you have a duty to supply:

  • first aid equipment;
  • all workers with access to that equipment;
  • access to facilities for administering first aid; and
  • access to an adequate number of trained first aiders.

Similar regulations apply in WA under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 and in Victoria, where the Compliance Code requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 are much more prescriptive.

Your first aiders should also be trained in your workplace emergency management process and safety management systems.

Who are your first aiders?

A first aid officer is someone who is able to administer first aid should an injury occur – they will hold a current first aid certificate and have been trained in a first aid course from a registered training organisation.

With the exception of WA, all states and territories suggest ratios for numbers of first aiders depending on the number of workers. In low-risk workplaces, this could be 1:50. In high-risk environments, it is recommended that there is one first aid person per 25 workers.

There are also recommendations in the codes for dealing with micro businesses where there are few workers. It is suggested that small employers on the same site could share or pool first aiders where possible.

If you were to ignore these recommendations, you might need to demonstrate the reasoning behind that decision, based on the level of risk in your workplace. Some businesses plan to rely on off-site medical staff or emergency paramedic services.

Both of these may cause critical time delays and ultimately be far more expensive.

Where are you based?

If your business is in a remote or isolated location, your first responders may need additional training and skills, such as sustaining life while waiting a long time for external responders.

You may also need to take into account workers who work away from the premises – providing them with portable first aid kits and also with instruction and training in how to administer first aid, either to themselves or another person.

Consider equipping fleet vehicles with first aid provisions including blankets, clothing and other supplies that may be required to deal with a road-side emergency. An emergency telephone or back-up battery may also come in useful.

When were your first aid officers last trained?

Over the past 20 years, the generally accepted minimum training requirements for first aiders was a level 2 (senior) first aid responder qualification – a formally assessed course by a recognised first aid provider.

A level 2 qualification covers many likely workplace medical events, ranging from burns and broken bones through to heart attacks, strokes and other life threatening injuries.

Generally, this was conducted via 1 to 2 days off-site with an initial course, and a follow-up refresher every 3 years – supplemented by a cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) refresher course every 12 months.

You must provide first aiders with refresher training at least once every 3 years so they retain the qualification and remain familiar with the latest first aid procedures and techniques.

Why do people most often need first aid at your workplace?

Most first aid training programs will cover airway and breathing management, CPR, some infection control, treating of some trauma injuries and tips on responding to medical emergencies.

However, this training can be supplemented by specific training for other scenarios or for other equipment – such as dealing with anaphylaxis, or training in the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) or other equipment that may be available to the first aiders.

When considering what specific training you might require, think about the type of work you do, where you do it and how many workers you have.

You might want to consult with your stakeholders to identify some of the major risks and the appropriate first aid controls or strategies that may be required.

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