What Should Be in a First Aid Kit at Work?

In any workplace, the safety and well-being of employees should be a top priority. Accidents, however minor they might be, can occur unexpectedly. Being equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit can make a significant difference in providing immediate care.

While the specifics of what should be included in a workplace first aid kit can vary based on the nature of the job and the risks involved, there are standard items that every kit should contain. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on this matter. Here’s a rundown of the essentials for a first aid kit at work:

1. Plasters (Band-Aids):

Ensure you have a good assortment of plasters in various sizes. These are essential for covering small cuts, blisters, or abrasions.

2. Sterile Dressings:

These are used to protect open wounds from infection and include medium and large-sized dressings. Some kits may also include adhesive, triangular and eye pad dressings.

3. Sterile Wipes:

Antiseptic wipes or saline wipes are crucial for cleaning wounds before dressing them. They help minimise the risk of infection.

4. Disposable Gloves:

It’s imperative to protect both the first aider and the injured person. Gloves, usually made of nitrile or latex, ensure that wounds can be treated without direct contact.

5. Eye Wash:

In workplaces where there’s a risk of foreign objects or chemicals entering the eyes, sterile saline eye wash is essential.

6. Burn Dressings:

In instances where there’s potential for burn injuries, having specific dressings that can soothe and protect burns is crucial.

7. Resuscitation Face Shield:

For situations requiring CPR, a face shield provides a barrier between the first aider and the patient, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

8. Tweezers and Scissors:

For removing splinters or cutting dressings, these tools can be invaluable.

9. Safety Pins:

These can be handy for securing triangular bandages or other dressings.

10. Guidance Leaflet:

A basic first aid manual or instruction leaflet is essential to guide someone unfamiliar with first aid procedures.

11. Tape:

Used to secure dressings or support injured areas.

12. Instant Cold Packs:

These can provide relief for injuries like sprains or strains.

13. Foil Blankets:

In instances of shock or where someone is feeling excessively cold, a foil blanket can help retain body heat.

Tailoring Your Kit:

Depending on the nature of the workplace, additional items might be necessary. For instance, a construction site might need heavy-duty bandages, while an office might require items specifically for repetitive strain injuries. Always conduct a risk assessment to tailor your first aid kit to the workplace’s specific needs.

What to do if items from your first aid kit are missing

If items from your first aid kit are missing or have been used, it’s essential to replace them as soon as possible to ensure the kit remains effective against unexpected emergencies.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do:

Inventory Check

Periodically, or after using the first aid kit, check its contents against the list of items it should contain. This can often be found on a label or leaflet inside the kit.

List Missing Items

Make a list of the missing or used items. It’s a good idea to note quantities too, especially if you need to restock multiples of a particular item.

Check Expiry Dates:

Don’t only check for missing items. Also check for items that are expired or close to expiring.  

Purchase Replacements

Many pharmacies, supermarkets, and online vendors sell individual first aid kit components. Purchase the necessary replacements from these places. If your kit has quite a lot of missing or expired items, it might just be more efficient and cost effective to buy a new first aid kit that comes with everything you’ll need.

Store Properly

Ensure the kit is stored in a cool, dry place and out of reach of young children. This helps preserve the longevity of its contents and ensures things don’t get tampered with. Also make sure to educate people where the first aid kit is stored. There’s no point in having a first aid kit if people will struggle to find it quickly in an emergency.

Is a first aid kit a legal requirement in the UK?

The Health and Safety 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.

By having a first aid kit in the workplace you can prove that you had ‘appropriate equipment’, if ever this were challenged in a court by an employee who was injured.

In addition to appropriate equipment, you should have appropriate personnel.

Meeting the requirement for appropriate personnel can be as simple as ensuring that at least one first-aid trained staff is present in the workplace while work is being conducted.

First aid training doesn’t need to be expensive. An independently accredited, fully compliant, online first aid course costs just £16 per person if you order it here. The course takes 1- 2 hours to complete.

The course includes an exam and a certificate to demonstrate first aid competence.