First Aid Needs Assessment Explained

Your First Aid Needs Assessment might conjure up a few questions. A common question we get asked at Life Saving Training is – “How many First Aiders do we need to be legally compliant?” A better question may be however, “How many First Aiders do we need to keep the people in our organisation safe?”

To help you understand the requirements when carrying out a First Aid Needs Assessment, we’ve used the current legislation and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) documentation to point you in the right direction.

First Aid Needs Assessment

Here’s the official information from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

‘The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. These Regulations apply to all workplaces including those with less than five employees and to the self-employed.’

So – the short answer is that all employers, no matter how large or small their organisation is, need to ensure that if anyone becomes ill or injured, they get immediate attention. So, what happens if they don’t?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explains:

‘In the event of injury or sudden illness, failure to provide First Aid could result in a casualty’s death. The employer should ensure that an employee who is injured or taken ill at work receives immediate attention.

HSE will prosecute in cases where there is a significant risk, a disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance with the law.’

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 explains:

ALL employers have a legal duty to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

So, no matter how large or small your organisation is – you need to make sure you have enough people trained to the correct level to ensure people are looked after if they need First Aid. Because ALL employees should receive immediate attention, what happens if you only have one First Aider on shift and they’re the one who needs help?  

It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work they do, what is important is that they receive immediate attention.

This is pretty self explanatory. If someone is ill or injured, it’s important that they get immediate assistance – no matter why they need First Aid assistance.

First aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.

We’ve always said this. Did you know around 60% of people who die through injury in the UK could potentially be saved by immediate First Aid intervention? A person with a severe bleed can die within 90 seconds. A person who stops breathing can die within 3 minutes. The actions of First Aiders and bystanders can determine whether a person has a positive outcome or not. After all, ambulances don’t tend to arrive within these timescales, even after the emergency call has been made. First Aiders really do save lives and can stop minor injuries becoming major issues. It’s that simple.

First aid provision must be ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’. This means that you must provide sufficient First Aid equipment (First Aid kit), facilities and personnel at ALL times.

The important bit here is that First Aid provision must be available at all times. Having First Aid kits available at all times is easy – as long as they are regularly checked and maintained. Making sure you have First Aiders available at all times can be more tricky to work out. This is where the next part of the guidance comes in… 

In order to decide what provision you need to make you should undertake a First Aid needs assessment. This assessment should consider the circumstances of your workplace, workforce and the hazards and risks that may be present. The findings will help you decide what First-Aid arrangements you need to put in place.

When carrying out a First Aid Needs Assessment, employers should consider:

A. the nature of the work and workplace hazards and risks;

If you work in a more hazardous environment, or do more hazardous work, it’s likely that you’ll require more First Aiders trained up to a higher level than if you have a small team in a safer environment, doing non hazardous work.

Here’s a basic, non-exhaustive list of the sorts of injuries that can occur when working in the presence of different hazards.

HazardExample of injury requiring First Aid
Eye injuries
Loss of consciousness
Respiratory problems
Cardiac arrest
Electric shock
Crush injuries
Eye injuries
Manual handlingCrush injuries
Sprains and strains
Slip and trip hazardsFractures
Head injuries
Sprains and strains
Work at heightFractures
Head injury
Loss of consciousness
Spinal injury
Sprains and strains
Workplace transportCrush injuries
Head injury
Sprains and strains

B. the nature of the workforce;

Do you have any inexperienced people? Do you have a young workforce? Are the majority of your team older? Do you have any employees with disabilities? Any people with particular health problems? These can all influence your First Aid needs.

C. the organisation’s history of accidents;

Has there been any accidents or incidents at the organisation? What illnesses/injuries have happened? How and where did they happen?

D. the size of the organisation;

How many people do you have on site? If you have a high number of people, it’s likely that you’ll need a higher number of First Aiders too.

E. the needs of travelling, remote and lone workers;

If people are working or travelling alone, personal First Aid kits should be considered along with the knowledge of how to use them.

F. work patterns;

Do you have people working on different shift patterns? To ensure people receive immediate assistance, you’ll need enough First Aiders to ensure First Aid provision is available at ALL times across all shifts when people are at work. If there’s only one First Aider on shift – how do you show that you’ve made adequate provision for their needs if they need First Aid? Is one First Aider on shift ever enough?

G. the distribution of the workforce;

Is your workforce spread out? Are they in multiple buildings or spread out across different floors? You’ll need to make sure there is First Aid provision in each building or on each floor and that there is a means to contact the emergency services.

H. the remoteness of the site from emergency medical services;

You’ll need appropriately trained First Aiders to help in an emergency situation. You may also wish to inform the emergency services of your location, talk to them about any special arrangements and consider emergency transport requirements.

I. employees working on shared or multi-occupied sites;

Do you share space with other organisations? You should make arrangements with other people on site to ensure adequate First Aid provision. A written agreement between employers is strongly recommended.

J. annual leave and other absences of First Aiders and appointed persons;

You need to ensure that you have adequate First Aid provision when your First Aiders are on annual leave or absent for any other reason. What provision do you currently have for planned and unplanned absences? Think about when a First Aider is on annual leave, late, ill, on lunch, working away, has ‘popped out’ to the shop etc. Remember, the First Aider covering needs to be at the same level or above as the person that’s absent – so a 1 day Emergency First Aid at Work First Aider can’t cover for a 3 day First Aid at Work First Aider etc.

K. First Aid provision for non-employees.

The HSE ‘strongly recommend’ that you cater for non-employees in your First Aid provision. It makes sense – for example, many customers will expect you to provide First Aid to them if they need it. If you were in a restaurant and you asked for help with a First Aid situation – how would you react if they told you it wasn’t their problem?

Refresher Training

Most First Aid certificates are valid for 3 years. To ensure First Aiders are up to date and capable of their role as a First Aider the HSE say:

‘HSE strongly recommends that First Aiders undertake annual refresher training, over half a day, during any three-year certification period.’

For information about the First Aid Needs Assessment directly from the HSE, check out the following link:

Struggling to make sense of all this? Don’t worry. Get in touch for a chat. We’re happy to talk through your options to help you become and remain compliant whilst keeping your colleagues safe. We’re always happy to help!