In any Australian workplace - whether it’s an office, factory or construction site - the safety and wellbeing of workers must be a top priority.
Accidents and medical emergencies can happen unexpectedly, potentially placing lives at risk, disrupting workflow and damaging work culture.
To better address these effectively, organisations across Australia must appoint a fellow worker or associate to the invaluable role of workplace first aider. First aiders play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and prompt response to health emergencies in their workplaces.
Having trained first aiders in the workplace is a proactive measure to mitigate risks, protect employees’ health and safety, and provide immediate first aid assistance in case of accident, illness or injury. They bridge the gap between an incident occurring and professional medical assistance arriving on the scene.
By possessing the necessary knowledge and skills, workplace first aiders can stabilise the situation, provide initial aid, and potentially save lives until medical professionals take over.
First aiders also serve as ambassadors for workplace safety, promoting preventative measures and cultivating a safety-conscious culture among workers.
They help reduce the likelihood of incidents and foster a safer working environment.
What is first aid in the workplace?Workplace first aid refers to the immediate assistance given to an injured or ill person in a workplace before professional medical help arrives.
It involves providing initial care and support to preserve life, prevent the condition from worsening and promote recovery.
First aid plays a vital role in maintaining the health and safety of workers, as well as complying with work health and safety regulations in Australia.
First aid in the workplace may involve a range of practises, including assessing and addressing a person’s immediate needs, providing basic life support (CPR), controlling bleeding, managing shock, immobilising fractures and administering appropriate first aid measures for various injuries or medical conditions.
In Australia, workplace first aid requirements are outlined in Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice: First Aid in the Workplace. This code provides guidance to employers, employees and first aiders for establishing effective first aid arrangements at work.
The Code recommends the number of trained first aiders to be on site, the provision of first aid equipment and facilities plus the necessary training requirements.
Employers across Australia have a legal duty of care to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their workers. This includes ensuring appropriate first aid measures are in place.
How many first aiders are needed in an Australian workplace?
Employers need to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and determine the level of first aid resources required.
The number of first aiders should be based on the risk level of the workplace by assessing factors such as the size of the workforce, the nature of the work being performed, the layout and structure of the premises, its proximity to medical facilities, and shift work and leave arrangements.
The Code of Practice recommends:
One first aider for every 50 workers in a LOW RISK workplace
One first aider for every 25 workers in a HIGH RISK workplace
One first aider for every 10 workers in a REMOTE HIGH RISK workplace
Workplace first aiders must receive first aid training from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Typically, basic first aid training in Australia includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), management of injuries and recognition of common illnesses.
Workplaces must also have readily accessible first aid kits stocked with appropriate supplies. The contents of a first aid kit needs to be regularly checked and replenished to ensure it’s up-to-date and meets the specific needs of the workplace.
Who is the designated person responsible for first aid in a workplace?
In accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, a person/s conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has the primary duty to ensure that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. A PCBU includes a company, unincorporated body or association, partnership, or a sole trader or self-employed person.
This duty ensures that appropriate first aid measures are in place, including that an adequate number of workers have been appointed as first aiders and are trained to administer first aid at the workplace, or that there’s access to an adequate number of first aiders who have been trained to provide first aid, for example, on the same premises.
A first aider’s role includes:
1. Developing and implementing first aid procedures: ensuring adequate first aid supplies and equipment are available, establishing protocols for reporting incidents and maintaining records, and promoting safe practices at the workplace.
2. Maintaining first aid supplies and equipment: overseeing the inspection, replenishment, and maintenance of first aid kits and other first aid equipment. Regularly checking the contents of first aid kits, ensuring they’re stocked with appropriate, up-to-date supplies and arranging for the repair or replacement of equipment as needed.
3. Responding to incidents and emergencies: providing an initial first aid response in the event of an incident or medical emergency until professional medical help arrives. Coordinating the response efforts of other first aiders, ensuring proper documentation of the incident and communicating with emergency services if necessary.
4. Maintaining local knowledge: knowing where local medical resources are, including hospitals and accessible defibrillators.
5. Monitoring and reviewing first aid arrangements: continuously assessing the effectiveness of first aid arrangements in the workplace and identifying areas for improvement. Reviewing incident reports, analysing trends and updating policies and procedures to align with best practices and regulatory requirements.
6. Keeping records: maintaining accurate and comprehensive records of any incidents, injuries or illnesses that occur in the workplace, including details of the first aid provided, observations and any communication with healthcare professionals or emergency services. Proper record keeping is essential for legal and reporting purposes.
Australian employers have a duty of care to provide clear guidelines and support to first aiders, including adequate training and access to necessary resources.
It’s essential to consult the specific guidelines and regulations provided by the relevant state or territory work health and safety authority.
These authorities may have additional requirements or variations depending on local legislation.