First aid is the provision of initial healthcare and basic life support to someone who suffers an injury or illness. It also forms an essential part of your duty of care as a business-owner that first aid is provided to ill or injured workers.

If an incident occurs in your workplace, you must ensure that first aid is provided until either the injured person recovers or more advanced care arrives.

First aid is not comprehensive medical treatment - it is emergency assistance, which has limitations that must be understood and incorporated into your safety management system.

A safety management system is a set of planned actions, policies and procedures that forms the framework for managing health and safety in the workplace.

You and your business have specific obligations to provide first aid depending on your jurisdiction. You should check the relevant legislative provisions and codes of practice (compliance codes) because they can differ between jurisdictions.

Except in certain circumstances, you will need to have at least one first aider in your workplace.

First aider

A first aider is someone who has been trained in an approved first aid course and holds a current first aid certificate. A first aider will usually be the person who administers first aid in the workplace should an injury occur. First aiders require a diverse range of skills to deal effectively with an incident. It is vital they are inducted into your workplace emergency management process and safety management system, and that their role is incorporated into those systems.

Safe Work Australia can recommend a number of training providers for first aiders.

You may need to provide first aiders with personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, masks and goggles) to ensure they are protected from the spread of infection while treating ill or injured workers. However, they should also be trained in how to deal with more serious injuries, particularly if your workplace is high-risk.

But remember, a first aider is not a medical professional and therefore cannot diagnose or treat an injury or illness, so they should advise the injured or ill person to seek further medical assistance.

Sometimes a first aider will need to deal with issues other than the injury itself. For example, they may have to control the scene of an incident to minimise risk of further harm.

It is important to remember that first aiders are not exposed to liability for negligence if they provide first aid in good faith and it results in further injury, as long as they did not cause the injury themselves and are not impaired by alcohol or drugs when providing treatment. This is known as the Good Samaritan Law.

The first aid kit

A first aid kit should have a white cross on a green background to comply with Australian Standards. A red cross on a white background is a logo of the Australian Red Cross and should not be used in workplaces. Make sure the kit container will keep the contents clean, dry and usable.

Some items stored in a first aid kit have expiry dates or need to be kept in a refrigerator or freezer to be effective, e.g. a reusable icepack. Some items, such as tweezers, may need to be sterilised between uses. This is not suitable in many workplaces, so disposable, single-use items should be used wherever possible.

Ensure that all items that are stained with bodily fluids, such as blood, are disposed of correctly, i.e. placed in an appropriate bin or biohazard bag.

Nominate someone within your workplace, usually a first aider, to keep the kit/s fully stocked at all times.

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