There was a time when First Aid Kits were little more than an afterthought for businesses, and comprised little more than a packet of Band Aid plasters and a bottle of iodine. But times have changed, and as a key part of ensuring health and safety in the workplace, these kits are not just expected but required by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation.
Employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees, with Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation coming into effect in January this year, standardizing the legislation Australia-wide for the first time.
The penalties now facing businesses that fail to comply with the new legislation is quite severe, so the importance in getting everything in order is arguably greater than ever.
Having a First Aid kit is a key part of achieving compliance. Access to these life-saving kits must be easy, with their contents properly managed and adequately stocked at all times. But mobile external defibrillators and eyewash stations are also required.
According to the OHS legislation, all business owners must:
The good news if you are compliant with older OHS legislation, is that few changes have been made specifically in relation to First Aid Kits. So, the kits supplied and managed by Alsco continue to surpass the standards required.
First Aid Kits must contain all items that can adequately treat common injuries for your particular industry sector. For this reason, you should carry out a Risk Assessment to ascertain which contents you need - for example, more burn gel if burns are most likely.
Here's a quick guide to what is needed to ensure your First Aid Kit is fully compliant:
First Aid Kit Contents to deal with:
Physical Requirements of your First Aid Kit:
First Aid Kit Location:
However, while the kit itself is a key component, it is now also necessary to provide the right facilities, and ensure they are capable of coping with whatever demands might be placed on First Aiders in the event of a major accident – however unlikely that may seem to be.
Amongst the facilities and additional equipment featured in the Model WHS legislation are:
But there is now a stronger onus on the business officer – or person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) - to ensure the workplace has adequate First Aid facilities, equipment and trained personnel.
This means they must accurately assess the requirements for their workplace, taking into account a number of aspects, such as the nature of the business, the typical the hazards there, and the number of staff working at any one time.
A PCBU's specific obligations, known as 'Duties of Care', fall into just a few categories:
When it comes to providing First Aid after an accident, it is now essential that every workplace has a properly trained First Aider on site at all times. First Aiders have to report directly to the PCBU, but their role is arguably the most important.
Their responsibilities include:
Having enough First Aiders to deal with the staff numbers is also a key component to complying with the new legislation. The number on duty at any one time depends on the type of work too. For example, in low risk workplaces (office), one First Aider is required for every 50 workers; while in high risk workplaces (manufacturing complex), one First Aider is needed for every 25 workers.
Staff can only be considered First Aiders if they hold nationally recognised 'Statements of Attainment' after completing an endorsed First Aid unit of competency. But the type of training is significant too.
The choice of First Aid Training courses include:
First Aiders are expected to undertake CPR refresher courses annually, and to renew their First Aid qualifications every 3 years. First Aiders may also need to be trained to respond to specific situations at their workplace - for example, where workers may have severe allergies to commonly used substances.
If you're wondering just how important complying with the new OHS legislation is, then consider the fact that relevant local authorities have been given greater powers to police employers within their jurisdiction, and a variety of ways to punish those businesses guilty of non-compliance.
Inspectors can effectively call in on a business premises at any time and assess that workplace. So there is every probability that any short-comings that may exist will be quickly revealed. It is, therefore, unwise for any company to take a lax view of the new measures.
According to the Model WHS legislation, these inspectors provide three types of functions, ranging in severity. They offer advice and consultation services to those requiring clarification, but can take strict action against those who fail to comply, including seizing evidence and taking guilty parties to court. In short, their role can be good, bad or quite ugly.
So, what punishment awaits those who are convicted of failing to meet with the required conditions laid down by the new OHS legislation? There is no doubt it is stricter than ever before, and that slaps on the wrist will no longer be considered sufficient.
As mentioned above, OHS inspectors have the power to issue 3 types of notice, depending on the specific details of each case. These are designed to give companies time to set things right, but if a company does not satisfy the requirements after that time, then they face some serious consequences.
Far bigger penalties apply to those officers, PCBUs and businesses that fail to live up to their Duty of Care obligations. Breaches of the Duty of Care are considered a criminal offence. Depending on the specific breach, penalties may be:
Identifying the type of risks prevalent in your workplace plays a big part in knowing the right number of First Aiders you need, and type of training they need. Through these five steps, you can assess what is needed to achieve compliance:
There is no denying that the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act has many facets, all of which need to be adhered to if a business is to comply with the new regulations. The problem is keeping up with the finer details. To help businesses in this matter, a code of practice has been drawn up by Safe Work Australia.
First Aid in the Workplace: Code of Practice sets out clearly everything businesses owners and PCBUs need to know, effectively removing any confusion there may be. It provides information on a risk management approach ensuring the specific system is tailored to the specific risks and hazards in their workplace.
A synopsis of the points it covers includes some points already covered above (see Is Your Business Compliant?). But as well as the expected points, like the required contents of First Aid Kits, the size and capacity of the kits, and the ideal locations for them, there are also details provided on kit maintenance, additional equipment required, and the First Aid facilities expected.
A person in the workplace should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit (usually a first aider) and should:
In addition to First Aid Kits, you should consider whether any other first aid equipment is necessary, like Automatic Defibrillators or Eye Wash and Shower Equipment.
Providing an Automatic Defibrillator can reduce the risk of fatality from cardiac arrest and is a useful addition for workplaces where there is a risk of electrocution, or where there are large numbers of members of the public.
Automatic defibrillators are designed to be used by trained or untrained persons. They should be located in an area that is clearly visible, accessible and not exposed to extreme temperatures. They should be clearly signed and maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications.
Eye wash and shower equipment may be permanently fixed or portable, depending on the workplace. Eye Wash equipment should be provided where there is a risk of hazardous chemicals or infectious substances causing eye injuries.
Easy access to shower equipment should also be provided in workplaces where there is a risk of:
Shower facilities can consist of:
Facilities must be sufficient to cope with whatever demands might be placed on the first aiders in the event of a major accident – however unlikely that may seem to be. A risk assessment will help determine the type of First Aid facilities needed. For example, a clean, quiet area within the workplace that affords privacy to an injured or ill person may be suitable and practicable for some workplaces.
Access to a telephone for contacting emergency services or an emergency call system should be provided as part of all First Aid facilities.
A First Aid room should be established where there is a higher risk of serious injury or illness occurring that would not only require immediate first aid, but also further treatment by an emergency service. A first aid room is recommended for:
First Aid rooms should suit the hazards specific to the workplace, and should allow easy access and movement of injured people supported or moved by stretcher or wheelchair. A First Aid room should:
Maintaining a first aid room should be allocated to a trained occupational First Aider, except where this room is part of a health centre or hospital.
Health centres staffed by a registered health practitioner (a doctor or nurse) or paramedic can provide emergency medical treatment and cater to the types of hazards in high risk workplaces. The facility should:
Alsco's 2012 First Aid Compliance Guide conforms to the health and safety laws now applied across Australia, and gives you the best guidance in complying to them.
Of course, many of the basic principles of ensuring safety in the workplace have not changed. So, if your business was compliant with the previous regulations as they relate to the provision of First Aid kits, there are few changes that you need to make. Certainly, we at Alsco are more than happy to help you meet the new First Aid kit requirements.
If you're not completely sure whether your company complies fully with the current WHS guidelines for providing First Aid kits in your workplace? Give our friendly team a call on 1300 077 391 for a free, no-obligation First Aid Audit.
Many businesses like to buy their First Aid equipment, including their kits, but with WHS Act stipulating a need to properly manage and maintain First Aid Kits, the sensible option is clearly to hire professionals to maintain equipment and supplies.
Alsco's fully managed First Aid rental program means everything is taken care of, leaving you with nothing to worry about. You can be confident the First Aid supplies you need will be there every time they are needed. Our managed rental service includes:
Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy, 2012-2022 (PDF)
Workplace Fatalities 2010-2011
Australia Work Related Injuries By Sex and Age, 2009-2010
ALSCO Falling Objects Fact Sheet (PDF)
ALSCO Wet Work Statistics (PDF)
ALSCO Working With Chemicals (PDF)
Call 1300 077 391 for a quote today. Ask about our obligation-free First Aid audit and get OH&S compliant.