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May 8, 2024

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When should you review your first aid policy?

Changes in the workplace, as well as changes to regulations and best practices can affect an organisation’s first aid arrangements. Adam Clarke, Managing Director at Praxis42 says it’s best to review your first aid policy at least once a year for it to continue to be effective.

Do you need a first aid policy?

Bull First AidEvery organisation must have a health and safety policy to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. First aid is a vital aspect of health and safety.

Many organisations choose to have a separate first aid policy to help communicate first aid arrangements to employees.

Having a separate policy also makes it easier to demonstrate compliance with the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.

Why review your policy?

It’s recommended to review your first aid policy at least annually so that it continues to be effective.

Here’s what to consider:

New regulations

There are often changes to regulations, best practices, and industry guidelines. Your first aid policy must be up to date to reflect current standards.

As an example of a recent change, the Health and Safety Executive updated their Guide to The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 at the beginning of this year.

The new guidance highlights the importance of considering employees’ mental health within the framework of a first aid needs assessment.

Some terminology in the guidance has also changed. ‘Catastrophic bleeding’ is now called ‘life-threatening bleeding’. This more accurate description helps employers to implement more effective risk management strategies.

As most first aid training is now delivered through a blend of online and face-to-face learning, the HSE has also updated their document, Selecting a first-aid training provider: A guide for employers. This is to help employers to select training providers that meet current standards.

Workplace changes

Your first aid provision should be reviewed if there are changes within your organisation.

If your organisation grows, you take on new staff, introduce new equipment, or make changes to processes, for example, you may need to review your risk assessment and first aid needs assessment. These assessments are the foundation of your first aid policy.

For guidance on carrying out a first aid needs assessment, please see the HSE’s guide, First aid at work: The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981.

Training requirements

trip hazardIf new hazards and risks are identified in your workplace, employees and first aiders may need additional or specialist training.

Note that there are different types of first aid personnel with different levels of training and responsibilities and your organisation’s requirements may change over time.

Your first aid policy should specify the type of training employees and first aiders receive and the frequency of training. The policy should explain what procedures are in place to monitor training needs, so you know everybody has the knowledge and skills they require.

Incidents can occur because there are unidentified risks or issues with equipment or procedures.

When there’s an accident or near-miss it’s important to carry out a thorough investigation and review. Areas for improvement can be identified by following the HSE’s guidance post-incident. Some work-related injuries have to be reported to RIDDOR.

By reviewing your health and safety policies regularly, you can help to make sure risks are effectively managed to protect people’s safety.

Other considerations

In most workplaces, things are constantly changing. Your first aid policy may need updating because contact information is different, or there have been changes to procedures and reporting forms, for instance.  First aiders may leave and be replaced by those who have different qualifications and skills.

Making sure information is up-to-date, accurate and accessible, helps to ensure first aid is well managed and the response to incidents is swift.

Why is it important to gather feedback?

Gathering feedback on your first aid policy and procedures from employees and first aiders helps ensure first aid provision is continuously effective, and any problems are addressed promptly.

It’s a good idea to encourage feedback on an ongoing basis so experiences, concerns and suggestions for improvement can be communicated at any time. This information can be incorporated into the first aid policy review.

You might ask employees if they know where first aid equipment is kept, what they understand about the organisation’s first aid procedures, and whether they know what to do in a medical emergency.

First aiders could be asked about:

  • Their experiences responding to incidents. What challenges did they face and were current procedures effective? Did they have access to the equipment they needed?
  • Training courses. Is the training provided by the organisation relevant and useful? Do they have any gaps in their knowledge? Would they benefit from additional training?
  • First aid equipment. Is the first aid kit well stocked? Is first aid equipment frequently checked and replaced before it goes out of date? Does the kit contain any additional materials identified in the first aid needs assessment?

Final thoughts

Although you won’t be faced with first aid incidents at work very often, it’s still vital to have a policy in place that communicates your first aid arrangements. A first aid policy is only effective, however, if employees read and understand it.

By reading your first aid policy, employees should understand first aid procedures, know who the first aiders are and where first aid equipment is kept, so they know how to respond in an emergency.

A first aid policy supports compliance with the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 and the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.

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