Work Safety

Under the Victorian OHS Act, 2004, the employer has a legal duty to:

‘provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the control and management of the employer’ (Section 21[2][d])’

What does this mean in terms of first aid?

Guidance can be found in the Complience Code for First Aid in the Workplace.

The Code, just as the previous one did, provides two options on how to comply:

  • Option 1: the Prescribed approach – with detailed guidance on how to comply with the Act, including the number of first aid officers, their duties and training; the number of first aid kits and their contents; and the number of first aid rooms and their requirements. It is suggested that this might be the approach for small to medium-sized workplaces.  “This approach provides a simple means of achieving compliance. However, if an employer chooses to follow option 1, they need to do everything recommended in the prescribed approach.” (p5 & p7)
  • Option 2: the Risk Assessment approach – this is a more flexible approach, and involves assessing the workplace and the hazards to make appropriate decisions about what first aid requirements are needed.

The Prescribed Approach

Employers who follow the guidance provided in this section will be considered to have complied with their duties under the Act. The section starts with advice on what employers need to consider when determining the number of employees at a workplace.

Table below provides a list of  common workplace hazards and associated illnesses and injuries which may require first aid.

This is then followed by a discussion of ‘low-risk’ and ‘higher risk’ workplaces, depending on the types of injuries or illnesses that are likely to occur. There is a new category in the latest Code: ‘Low-risk micro-businesses’.

Low-risk (eg offices, libraries, most retail shops):

  • no exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness (as described below) requiring immediate medical attention
  • the workplace is located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available

Higher risk (eg manufacturing plants, commercial kitchens, meatworks, motor vehicle/panel repair workshops, prisons, forestry operations):

  • potential exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness requiring immediate medical attention. Examples include amputation of any part of the body; serious head or eye injury; de-gloving; electric shock; spinal injury; loss of a bodily function; serious lacerations and/or
  • the workplace is not located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available (ie an isolated or remote location)

NOTE: In situations where a workplace includes low-risk working areas as well as higher risk areas (for example a workplace with an administrative office plus a workshop), employers need to apply the prescribed approach for the higher risk workplaces

Low-risk micro-businessesare those which meet the criteria of a low-risk workplace, but has fewer than 10 employees. Such a business will be considered to comply by providing a basic first aid kit (as set out in paragraphs 121-124 of the Code).

First aid officers

Where possible, employers need to ensure there is at least one first aid officer available at any one time. When planning, employers need to take into account coverage during different shifts, leave and flexible work arrangements.

Low-risk workplaces:

  • one for 10 – 50 workers
  • two for 51 – 100 workers
  • one additional for every additional 100 workers

Higher risk workplaces:

  • one for up to 25 workers
  • two for 26 to 50 workers
  • one additional for every additional 50 workers

First aid training

  • Minimum: a nationally recognised statement of attainment issued by a registered training organisation (RTO) for the nationally endorsed first aid unit of competency Provide First Aid, or a course providing equivalent skills.
  • For higher risk workplaces, there may be a need for first aid officers who have completed Provide Advanced First Aid or a course providing equivalent skills.
  • Employers need to assess whether they need to provide additional training where there are particular workplace hazards or needs (eg where work is remote or isolated; risks from hazardous substances; or more – p10)
  • if a workplace is large or has a complex range of OHS hazards, then the employer needs to choose Option 2 (Risk assessment approach) to determine the appropriate level of first aid training based on a risk assessment.
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current and updated regularly. Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be carried out annually, and first aid qualifications should be renewed every 3 years.
  • to book your first aid click here
First aid kits

Location and quantity

  • Low risk workplaces:
    – one kit for 10 to 50 employees
    – one additional kit for every additional 50 employees up to 200
    – after 200, one additional kit for every addition 100 employees
  • Higher risk workplaces:
    – one kit, including specific first aid modules, for up to 25 employees
    – two kits, including specific modules, for up to 50 employees
    – one additional kit, including specific modules, for every additional 50 employees
  • For isolated or remote locations or mobile workplaces, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide adequate facilities by ensuring employees have access to appropriate first aid kits.
  • Kits need to be clearly identified and easily accessible.
  • Where there are separate work areas, it may be appropriate to locate first aid facilities centrally, and provide portable kits in each work area. This may include motor vehicles.

*The Container needs to be

  • suitable for the environment to keep the contents clean, dry, organised and free from damage
  • large enough to hold any additional first aid kit modules that are to be included, preferably in separate compartments
  • easily recognisable (eg with a white cross on a green background and clearly marked as ‘First aid kit’)

The name and telephone number of workplace first aid officers, as well as emergency services telephone numbers and addresses, should be located in or near each first aid kit – which should not be locked.

Contents of kit

What is appropriate will vary according to the workplace. Employers need to ensure that kits are adequately stocked for their workplace. A basic kit needs to include (this list is different from that in the previous Code):

  • first aid instructions/quick reference guide
  • notebook and pen/pencil
  • disposable surgical face masks  (4)
  • resuscitation mask or face shield with one-way valve
  • disposable nitrile gloves – latex free (5 pairs in various sizes)
  • 3-pack gauze swabs 10 x 10 cm (5 packs)
  • Saline 14 ml (8) or 30ml (4)
  • adhesive dressing strips – plastic/fabric (packet of 50)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 5x5cm, small (6)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 7.5×7.5cm, medium (3)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 10x10cm, large (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, light, 5 cm width (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, light, 7.5 cm width (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, 10 cm width
  • scissors
  • adhesive tape, non-stretch, hypoallergenic, 2.5 cm wide roll
  • dressing – combine pad 9 x 20 cm (2)
  • resealable bag – large (2)
  • triangular bandage minimum width 100x155cm (2)
  • eye pads, single use (2)
  • instant cold pack for treatment of soft tissue injuries and some stings
  • alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • emergency accident blanket

Employers needs to assess whether additional first aid kit modules are required where particular hazards exist. Common examples: modules dealing with eyes, burns and remote workplaces. (See paragraphs 125 – 136 for more on Additional first aid kit modules)

Employers need to ensure that the kits are restocked as necessary, and should have a system for reviewing and restocking kits.

The use of single-use items should be encouraged.

Workplace First Aid Kit Checklist is available to download here.  After completing, email us at [email protected] and we can help ensure you are compliant.

We can help keep you stocked by providing both the first aid kits and refills. Email us at [email protected] and let us know how we can assist.

The Code advises the following in paragraphs 138 – 141)- this is new advice:

Employers should consider including:

  • an asthma-relieving inhaler and a spacer to treat asthma attacks
  • an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector (EpiPen) for the treatment of anaphylaxis
  • 300 mg of dissolvable aspirin for the treatment of chest pain, to be administered on the instruction of Ambulance Victoria or a registered health professional
  • if considered necessary, mild analgesics, such as paracetamol or similar which are available for unrestricted purchase, can be included

These are available from your local pharmacist.

Risk Assessment approach

Establishing first aid requirements

In consultation with affected employees and their health and safety reps, employers need to:

  • identify hazards that could result in work-related injury or illness
  • assess the likelihood and severity (the risk)
  • determine and provide the appropriate first aid facilities and training, taking into account the nature of the workplace
  • review the requirements on a regular basis or as circumstances change

*As part of this systematic approach, employers need to take account of the following factors:

The nature of the hazards and severity of the risks

Certain work environments have greater risks due to the nature of the work, and this is an important factor in determining first aid requirements. Where a workplace stores/uses highly toxic or corrosive chemicals, additional first aid facilities need to be provided (particularly if specified in the SDS). Facilities may need to include emergency showers and eyewash stations (see paragraphs 153-156), and where applicable, poison antidotes.

Known occurrences of injuries, illnesses and incidents

Injury, illness and ‘near miss’ incident data should be reviewed to help identify problem areas, but not be relied on as it covers past occurrences, not potential injuries and illnesses. The code advises that specialist practitioners, industry reps, unions and government as potential sources of assistance and information.

Table 3 provides a list of  common workplace hazards and associated illnesses and injuries which may require first aid.

Size and layout of workplace  

The employer needs to take these things into account:

  • the nature of the work being performed in different work areas
  • the distance an injured or sick person would have to be transported to receive first aid
  • the level of first aid available throughout the workplace

First aid facilities need to be located at convenient points and in areas where there is significant risk. Larger workplaces may require first aid facilities in more than one location.

The number of employees and the way work is done 

The employer needs to take account of the following:

  • separate areas of work (separate buildings, or floors) – it may be appropriate to have central first aid facilities and first aid kits in each area
  • employees working away from the employer’s premises – whether they work alone or in groups; their access to telephone/emergency radio communications; the nature of the work
  • work occurring over more than one shift – ensuring availability of first aid facilities
  • environments where ‘others’ are present (for example volunteers, residents, prisoners, students, members of the public) additional facilities may be required

Location of the workplace

The employer needs to consider:

  • the distance to ambulance services, hospital and medical/occupational health centres
  • in the case of possible life-threatening injuries and timely access to emergency services cannot be assured, whether a first aid officer trained in more advanced techniques or using the services of a registered health professional is needed
  • factors influencing time it may take for medical aid to reach person – eg poor roads, adverse weather – and whether facilities for aerial evacuation need to be included in planning first aid facilities, as well as ensuring efficient communication systems appropriate to the workplace. These may include mobile or satellite phones, radios or global positioning systems (GPS).
  • provision of portable first aid kits, including specialised kit modules, for employees working in remote locations

First aid risk assessment process

  • Step 1 – Identify potential causes of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 2 – Assess the risk of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 3 – What fist aid facilities are required to meet the assessed needs?
  • Periodic review of assessment.

On page 25 of the Code there is a diagram which goes through the risk assessment process.

Recording the first aid assessment

The employer should record the assessment and its outcomes, as this ‘may be beneficial when reviewing first aid facilities and training needs’. Appendix C of the code provides an example of a first aid assessment.

First Aid Officers

  • must have appropriate training
  • skills and knowledge necessary will vary with each type of workplace, as will the number required
  • first aid officers need to have access to appropriate first aid kits and where appropriate, first aid rooms and occupational health centres

Records

The employer needs to ensure that a record of any first aid treatment given is kept by the first aid officer and reported to managers on a regular basis to assist the employer when reviewing risk assessment procedures. These records are subject to the requirements of the Health Records Act 2001 . WorkSafe has previously advised that the records should include:

  • workers name and occupation or job title
  • time and date of injury
  • location at the time of injury
  • description of how the injury was received
  • nature of injury and bodily part/s affected
  • witnesses
  • nature of first aid treatment given
  • name of person making the entry in the records
  • date of entry in register

There is no set period of time for keeping records. It is recommended that first aid records be kept for the life of the worker.

Immunisation for first aid officers

New advice: where there is a risk of vaccine-preventable disease, first aid officers need to be offered vaccinations in line with the Department of Health Australian immunisation handbook.

First aid training

  • Minimum: a nationally recognised statement of attainment issued by a registered training organisation (RTO) for the nationally endorsed first aid unit of competency Provide First Aid, or a course providing equivalent skills.
  • For larger or higher risk workplaces, there may be a need for first aid officers who have completed Provide Advanced First Aid or a course providing equivalent skills.
  • Employers need to assess whether they need to provide additional training where there are particular workplace hazards or needs (eg where work is remote or isolated; risks from hazardous substances; or more – paragraph 100)
  • if a workplace is large or has a complex range of OHS hazards, then the employer needs to choose Option 2 (Risk assessment approach) to determine the appropriate level of first aid training based on a risk assessment.
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current and updated regularly. Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be carried out annually, and first aid qualifications should be renewed every 3 years.
  • to book your first aid course click here.
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