Work Health and Safety regulations can be confusing. Many employers are unsure of their responsibilities under the various aspects of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act. To combat the confusion, codes of practice have been created to offer practical guidance for achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the WHS Act.
Generally, following the approved code of practice for a particular subject is the easiest way to ensure compliance with the health and safety duties in the WHS Act. Of course a code of practice can not cover all potential hazards or risks – it is the reponsibility of employers to consider all risks and hazards associated with their particular type of work.
There’s no denying the importance of first aid – the application of immediate and effective first aid to workers or others who have been injured or become ill at the workplace may reduce the severity of the injury or illness and encourage a speedy recovery. In some cases it may mean the difference between life and death.
While first aid requirements will vary from workplace to workplace, the code of practice provides valuable information about using a risk management approach so that the first aid provisions put in place are tailored to the individual circumstances of a specific workplace. The code also provides guidance on the number and type of first aid kits different workplaces require, and how many trained first aiders are appropriate for particular workplaces.
Find out more in the following excerpt from the code or download the full code in PDF format:
3. First Aid Equipment, Facilities and Training
The information provided in this chapter may be used as a guide to determine the appropriate first aid equipment, facilities, first aiders and procedures needed in various workplaces.
First aid equipment, facilities and first aiders must be accessible to workers whenever they work, including those working night shifts or overtime.
3.1 First aid kits
All workers must be able to access a first aid kit. This will require at least one first aid kit to be provided at their workplace.
The first aid kit should provide basic equipment for administering first aid for injuries including:
- cuts, scratches, punctures, grazes and splinters
- muscular sprains and strains
- minor burns
- amputations and/or major bleeding wounds
- broken bones
- eye injuries
The contents of first aid kits should be based on a risk assessment. For example, there may be higher risk of eye injuries and a need for additional eye pads in a workplace where:
- chemical liquids or powders are handled in open containers
- spraying, hosing or abrasive blasting operations are carried out
- there is any possibility of flying particles causing eye injuries
- there is a risk of splashing or spraying of infectious materials
- welding, cutting or machining operations are carried out.
Additional equipment may be needed for serious burns and remote workplaces. The recommended content of a typical first aid kit and information on additional equipment is provided in Appendix C.
Design of Kits
First aid kits can be any size, shape or type to suit your workplace, but each kit should:
- be large enough to contain all the necessary items
- be immediately identifiable with a white cross on green background that is prominently displayed on the outside
- contain a list of the contents for that kit
- be made of material that will protect the contents from dust, moisture and contamination.
In the event of a serious injury or illness, quick access to the kit is vital. First aid kits should be kept in a prominent, accessible location and able to be retrieved promptly. Access should also be ensured in security-controlled workplaces. First aid kits should be located close to areas where there is a higher risk of injury or illness. For example, a school with a science laboratory or carpentry workshop should have first aid kits located in these areas.
If the workplace occupies several floors in a multi-storey building, at least one kit should be located on every second floor. Emergency floor plans displayed in the workplace should include the location of first aid kits.
A portable first aid kit should be provided in the vehicles of mobile workers if that is their workplace (for example, couriers, taxi drivers, sales representatives, bus drivers and inspectors). These kits should be safely located so as not to become a projectile in the event of an accident.
Restocking and Maintaining Kits
A person in the workplace should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit (usually a first aider) and should:
- monitor access to the first aid kit and ensure any items used are replaced as soon as practicable after use
- undertake regular checks (after each use or, if the kit is not used, at least once every 12 months) to ensure the kit contains a complete set of the required items (an inventory list in the kit should be signed and dated after each check)
- ensure that items are in good working order, have not deteriorated and are within their expiry dates and that sterile products are sealed and have not been tampered with.
3.2 First Aid Signs
Displaying well-recognised, standardised first aid signs will assist in easily locating first aid equipment and facilities. Further information on the design and use of signs is available in AS 1319 – Safety Signs for the Occupational Environment.
3.3 Other First Aid Equipment
In addition to first aid kits, you should consider whether any other first aid equipment is necessary to treat the injuries or illnesses that could occur as a result of a hazard at your workplace.
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
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.
Immediate access should be provided to shower equipment in workplaces where there is a risk of:
- exposure to hazardous chemicals resulting in skin absorption or contamination from infectious substances
- serious burns to a large area of the face or body (including chemical or electrical burns or burns that are deep, in sensitive areas or greater than a 20 cent piece).
Shower facilities can consist of:
- an appropriate deluge facility
- a permanently rigged hand-held shower hose
- a portable plastic or rubber shower hose that is designed to be easily attached to a tap spout – for small, relatively low risk workplaces where a fixed deluge facility would not be reasonably practicable but the risk of serious burns is still foreseeable (for example, a fish and chip shop).
Portable, self-contained eye wash or shower units have their own flushing fluid which needs to be refilled or replaced after use. Further guidance is available in AS 4775 – Emergency eyewash and shower equipment.
3.4 First aid facilities
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.
First Aid Rooms
A first aid room should be established at the workplace if a risk assessment indicates that it would be difficult to administer appropriate first aid unless a first aid room is provided.
For example, workers who carry out work at workplaces 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, may benefit from having access to a dedicated first aid room.
A first aid room is recommended for:
- low risk workplaces with 200 workers or more
- high risk workplaces with 100 workers or more.
The contents of a first aid room should suit the hazards that are specific to the workplace. The location and size of the room should allow easy access and movement of injured people who may need to be supported or moved by stretcher or wheelchair.
The following items should be provided in the room:
- a first aid kit appropriate for the workplace
- hygienic hand cleanser and disposable paper towels
- an examination couch with waterproof surface and disposable sheets
- a cupboard for storage
- a container with disposable lining for soiled waste
- a container for the safe disposal of sharps
- a bowl or bucket (minimum two litres capacity)
- electric power points
- a chair and a table or desk
- the names and contact details of first aiders and emergency organisations.
A first aid room should:
- offer privacy via screening or a door
- be easily accessible to emergency services (minimum door width of 1 metre for stretcher access)
- be well lit and ventilated
- have an appropriate floor area (14 square metres as a guide)
- have an entrance that is clearly marked with first aid signage.
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. A health centre may be established in the workplace (e.g. at a large mine site) or, if readily available, external emergency services may be used.
If a health centre is located at the workplace, the facility should:
- be self-contained
- be located at ground level where possible in a quiet, clean area that is a safe distance from hazardous operations and clear of any general thoroughfare
- be convenient and accessible to workers at the times that they work and have an entrance clearly marked with health centre signage
- have walls, floors and ceilings that are made of impervious materials and are easy to clean
- have enough space to accommodate first aid equipment
If you are not sure whether your workplace complies with WHS requirements, remember you can always get free advice from Alsco. If you are unsure of what to do, Alsco can make it simple for you.
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