Are You Prepared For An Emergency?
Philip Crosbie with a quick health check for businesses
THE provision of first aid to employees is a basic obligation enshrined within the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981.
HSE guidance on this duty reminds us that ‘An employer should make an assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances (hazards and risks) of each workplace.’ (1)
Employers, particularly in the cleaning industry where there are often lone workers and employees on third party premises, should assess what first-aid provision is adequate. The fact that many employees are likely to be using chemicals and machinery makes such provision even more important.
The HSE guidance provides a checklist for employers and deals specifically with a number of common industry issues:
l where employees travel a lot, work remotely or work alone, the guidance advises employers to consider issuing personal first-aid kits and mobile phones (to summon assistance); and
l where employees work at a site occupied by other employers, the guidance suggests that an employer should make arrangements with other site occupiers to ensure the adequate provision of first-aid. A written agreement between employers is strongly recommended.
Employers do not need formal health and safety policies covering the issue of first-aid provision, but there does need to be some thought given to the issue. As a minimum, the HSE advise the following:
a suitably stocked first-aid kit;
an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements; and
information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements.(2)
Where there are a number of individuals working within one location, there should at least be one person appointed to co-ordinate a response (such as calling the emergency services) in the event that first-aid needs to be administered.
Thought should be given to whether that individual is always available during working hours and who will fill that role in their absence. Where there are changes in the workforce, employers need to review the position on a regular basis.
Where arrangements have been established, employers should make sure that employees are aware of them. In the event of an incident where first-aid is administered, you should ensure that those arrangements worked as expected. Serious cases of injury in the workplace are often aggravated by poor first-aid and emergency response.
In the event first-aid kits are provided, they should be regularly checked and, if necessary, refreshed just as would happen with other PPE and work equipment.
Where employees are given first-aid training, employers should take note that training requirements have recently changed. Until October 2013, any health and safety training qualification had to be approved by the HSE. As from October 1, 2013, such approval became no longer necessary and employers now have the freedom to select appropriate training providers.
HSE has also provided guidance on how to select a suitable provider. See:
The changes to training requirements allow businesses a greater degree of flexibility and independence and an enhanced ability to tailor courses to the specific needs and demands within their particular workforce. The HSE will only become involved in cases where there is a significant risk, a disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance with the law.
When an incident has been dealt with and first-aid administered, thought should then be given to completing the relevant accident book and, for more serious incidents, whether a report to the HSE is necessary under the provisions of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (‘RIDDOR’).
Failure to report an injury as required could lead to prosecution and the issuing of a fine; one which may be substantial and damaging for a small company. By way of example, a company has been fined £3,500 for not reporting the injuries sustained by two employees whilst using machinery and a heat-sealing mechanism.
As well as the changes to first-aid training, there have also been changes to the RIDDOR provisions. The main changes relate to the classification of those injuries considered ‘major injuries’; the list of ‘major injuries’ has been replaced with a list of ‘non-fatal injuries to workers’.
In addition, there has been a reduction in the types of ‘dangerous occurrences’ that need to be reported. Whilst employers will still need to investigate non-reportable accidents and make any changes needed to prevent a recurrence, an awareness of these recent changes will assist those tasked with completing RIDDOR reports should the time come.
Philip Crosbie is an associate in the regulatory team of the litigation and dispute management group at Eversheds LLP. He specialises in corporate criminal defence work, regulatory advice and non-contentious compliance work.
l The National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA) has devised an excellent health and safety training course aimed at the carpet and upholstery cleaner. T: 0116 271 9550
(1) L74 3rd Edition: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l74.pdf
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.