What is mandatory and what is an optional extra in your first aid kit?
By Andrew Hobbs
Every workplace must have at least one but with any luck, you’ll never use them – so what extras should form a part of your first aid kit?
It’s a good question because there is no specified list in health and safety legislation or regulations in any state or territory about what a first aid kit ought to contain, let alone any ‘optional extras’.
Generally, the contents of a first aid kit will vary depending on the nature of likely hazards at your workplace, but will often contain a variety of wound dressings, tapes, bandages and pins, as well as a reusable icepack, a sterile saline solution, eye pads, disposable gloves and antiseptic.
Ultimately, a first aid kit should be equipped to help an ill or injured person until either they recover, or more advanced care can be found.
In other words, kits should contain over-the-counter treatments. But when it comes to prescription medication, the rules are a little more complex.
Inhalers and EpiPens
Many workplaces would have workers who suffer from allergies and health conditions that require prescription medication. Should your first aid kits be stocked with these? How do you find out what you might need to store in case of an emergency?
While you may ask your workers to volunteer information about any allergies or health conditions that might require first aid, you cannot compel them to tell you unless it is a lawful and reasonable request – that is, it relates to the requirements of their role.
If your employees do tell you about their need either for an asthma inhaler or an EpiPen – or any other emergency medication – you will need to consult with them about where they plan to store their medication.
Wherever it may be – in their desk, their vehicle or even an office refrigerator – your first aiders must be told where it is kept and given appropriate training in how to use it.
If you wish to duplicate this medication and make it available elsewhere in the company, you can do so in consultation with the employee.
However, as EpiPens and some inhalers are prescription medications, it is incumbent on the worker to provide these to you – and they must only be used for that worker. You do not have to pay for this medication.
With this in mind, you may need to consider a more secure location for any prescription medication – but wherever this is, it is vital that the medication can be accessed quickly by a trained first aid officer in case of emergency.
It is important to note that first aid kits should always be readily accessible and as such, should never be locked.
What about defibrillators?
While automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming increasingly common, there is no health and safety legislation that requires you to have one in your company’s first aid kit.
Nonetheless, they are one of the most effective ways of dealing with the victim of a sudden cardiac arrest in your workplace, and are relatively foolproof to use.
As such, they can be more important in workplaces known to have a high risk – where employees work at height or in extreme temperatures or confined spaces; or with hazardous substances, machinery or violent people.
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