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Workplace Safety and First Aid Legislation – What You Need to Know

Under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a comprehensive risk assessment should be carried out in every workplace to identify and take measures to eliminate or suitably reduce risks in the workplace (employers with five or more employees should record the findings and action taken).  This should be reviewed regularly and updated as required.  The amount of risk and the actions to be taken will differ from workplace to workplace and depend on the work being carried out.  You may need to take account of more specific regulations such as The Work at Height Regulations 2005 or The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 if these apply to your workplace.   Implementing and acting on risk assessments will help you to fulfil your duties under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and keep you from being prosecuted if accidents occur (employers and owners of businesses can face heavy fines and even jail time under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 if it is proven that suitable safety procedures were not in place at the time of an accident)

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to make adequate first-aid provisions for their employees and make them aware of these.  The provisions should be based upon an assessment of the first-aid needs of the workplace.  The minimum requirement is that every workplace has an adequately stocked and properly identified (usually by way of sign) first aid kit and at least one appointed person responsible for first aid in the workplace.  The materials in the first aid kit and the number of kits should reflect the needs of the workplace.  It is recommended that there is at least one person trained in relevant first aid in the workplace at all times (employers may want to take account of holidays, shift patterns and potential absences when ensuring this), though more may be required depending on the nature of the work being carried out and the number of staff employed in the workplace (this should be taken into account in the needs assessment).  HSE recommends that for companies operating low risk activities with fewer than 25 employees there is one appointed person responsible for first aid, with 25-50 employees at least one EFAW trained first aider, and with more than 50 employees at least one FAW trained first aider per 100 employees.  For companies operating higher risk activities there should be at least one appointed person, with 5-50 employees at least one FAW trained first aider, and with more than 50 at least one FAW trained first aider for every 50 employees.  When selecting first aid providers employers should consider their:

  • Reliability, communication and disposition
  • Ability to learn new skills
  • Aptitude for coping with stressful and demanding procedures
  • Their normal duties (they should be able to respond quickly and efficiently to an accident)

HSE has a list of recommended training providers and awarding organisations to help with selection.  These training providers should use training material and teach first aid treatment of injuries and illness as covered in FAW/EFAW training courses.

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 apply when a risk assessment has been completed under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the risk has not been eliminated or mitigated enough to remove significant residual risk.  The regulations require the signage used to conform to relevant standards and be suitably placed and maintained so that it is effective.  While not a requirement, safety signs are advised to conform to BS EN ISO 7010 (the standard across Europe) to make sure they are understood by as many people as possible.  It may be necessary to explain safety signs to new employees so that they understand exactly what they mean and what action is required.

The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the associated Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 cover the requirements for fire safety in the workplace.  The responsibility for implementing these requirements rests with the Duty Holder (this may be the employer and/or occupier of the premises).  Employees should cooperate with their employers in ensuring the safety of others from fire.  A fire risk assessment (which concentrates on the safety of all relevant persons in the case of a fire) of the premises should be carried out by the Duty Holder and if five or more people are employed then the findings of the assessment should be recorded.  Any advised precautions, measures or procedures (this could include the provision of fire fighting equipment and the provision of adequate signage) should be implemented based upon the findings of the risk assessment and these should be reviewed suitably regularly or when there has been a major change in work processes to demand it.  An emergency fire action plan should be kept on premises and known to all staff as well as forming the basis of their training and instruction in the event of a fire.

In England and Wales, workplace fire safety comes under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which is supplemented by the Fire Safety (Employee’s Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010.  These regulations are similar to those in place in Scotland, only the Duty Holder is the ‘responsible person’.  Again, a comprehensive fire risk assessment must be carried out and all measures taken to avoid, minimise, or warn of risks.  Staff should be aware of procedures in place for their safety in the event of a fire and be trained in carrying them out.  The Employee’s Capabilities Regulations put a further requirement on employers in England and Wales to consider their employees’ individual capabilities when entrusting them with fire safety related tasks.