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, standardizing the legislation Australia-wide for the first time.
The penalties now facing businesses that fail to comply with the new legislation are quite severe, so the importance of 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:
- Provide First Aid facilities that are adequate for the immediate treatment of injuries that arise at the place of work.
- Ensure First Aid facilities include a First Aid Kit appropriate for the number of employees on each site and work environment.
- Ensure First Aid Kits are maintained in proper condition and the contents are replenished as necessary.
- Ensure First Aid Kits are regularly checked to ensure the contents are as listed and have not deteriorated or expired.
- Ensure First Aid Kits have a white cross on a green background with the words ‘First Aid’ prominently displayed on the outside.
- Ensure First Aid Kits are located at points convenient to the work force and where there is a risk of injury occurring.
- Provide at least one First Aid Kit on each floor of a multi-level workplace.
- Provide each work vehicle with a vehicle First Aid Kit.
Is Your Business Compliant?
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:
- Cuts, scratches, punctures, grazes and splinters
- Muscular sprains and strains
- Minor burns
- Amputations and/or major bleeding wounds
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries
Physical Requirements of your First Aid Kit:
- Large enough to contain all the necessary items
- Immediately identifiable with a white cross on green background prominently displayed
- Contain a written list of that kit’s contents
- Made of material that will protect the contents from dust, moisture and contamination
First Aid Kit Location:
- Prominent, accessible and be able to be retrieved promptly
- Close to areas where risks of injury or illness is higher
- In security-controlled workplaces
- On every second floor in multi-storey buildings
- Highlighted on emergency floor plans
- Portable kits in vehicles of mobile workers (couriers, taxi drivers, sales reps)
- Portable kits safely located in case of accidents
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:
- Automatic defibrillators
- Eye wash stations
- Showers (depends on workplace)
- Health centre or first aid room (depends on workplace and staff numbers)
The Expanded Role of the PCBUs
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:
- The provision of First Aid equipment
- That each worker has access to that equipment
- Adequate number of worker appropriately trained in first aid (First Aiders)
- Adequate number of First Aiders available at any time
- Workers gave access to facilities for the administration of First Aid
Making Sure To Have First Aiders
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:
- Taking reasonable care for their own health and safety
- Taking reasonable care not to adversely affect the health and safety of others
- Complying with any reasonable instructions given by the PCBU to allow him or her to comply with his or her duties
- Co-operating with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety in the workplace
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.
Ensuring Properly Trained Staff
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:
- Apply First Aid – trains staff to recognise and respond to common life-threatening injuries or illnesses, including CPR, and to manage the casualty and incident until the arrival of medical or other assistance. In low risk workplaces, First Aiders need only know how to perform CPR and treat minor illnesses and injuries.
- Apply Advanced First Aid – trains staff in additional competencies required to apply advanced first aid procedures. Suitable for some high risk workplaces.
- Manage First Aid in the Workplace (Occupational First Aid) – trains staff to apply advanced first aid procedures and to manage a first aid room.
- Provide First Aid in Remote Situations – trains staff to administer first aid in a remote and/or isolated situation, including preparing for aero-medical evacuation. Suitable for high risk workplaces where emergency services are a distance away.
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.
Greater Policing To Ensure Compliance
If you’re wondering just how important complying with the OHS legislation is, then consider the fact that relevant local authorities have 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. In short, the inspectors can be good, bad or ugly!
- Inspectors can provide information and advice on compliance measures
- Assist in the resolution of WHS issues
- Help train health and safety reps
- Issue prohibition notices, improvements notices, or non-disturbance notices
- Can investigate contraventions of laws
- Can make surprise visits to a workplace
- Can seek search warrants
- Can seize evidence, and request documents
- Can seek court injunctions
- Can begin legal proceedings
Severe Penalties For Non-Compliance
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.
- Improvement Notice: Calls for specific health and safety improvements to be made. Penalty: $50,000 individual; $250,000 corporate
- Prohibition Notice: Prohibits work to continue until improvements are made. Penalty: $100,000 individual; $500,000 corporate
- Non-Disturbance Notice: Preserves a site for a stated period of time (max 7 days). Penalty: $50,000 individual; $250,000 corporate
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:
- $3 million for a corporation
- $600,000 or 5 years in jail for an individual
- $100,000 or 5 years in jail for a worker
Links and Further Reading
Websites Worth Visiting:
Alsco Eyewash Stations
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Image Courtesy:”Safety instructions at a construction site in China” by RudolfSimon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.