A first aid kit is an essential requirement for every workplace in the UK. Whatever their size, all places of work should have a first aid box that’s stocked with an inventory of items suited to the risks present in the environment. To understand which equipment is necessary, you’ll first need to carry out a first aid needs assessment.

This guide explains what should be in a first aid kit. As the equipment varies depending on the risks present, we’ll initially explore the first aid items you might need for a low-risk workplace like an office and then move on to consider environments that pose a greater health and safety risk. We’ll also look at where to buy first aid kits that are appropriate for your place of work.

 

First aid kit contents

There are no official minimum requirements for first aid kits in the workplace. Provided that you have a first aid box on-site and you’re satisfied that it contains all of the necessary items based on your needs assessment, then you have met the legal requirements.

That said, HSE provides a useful guide on the items you should have in a minimum first aid kit for an environment in which work activities are low-risk. We’ll consider this first, and then move on to think about first aid box contents for workplaces where employees are at greater risk.

 

Low-risk working environments

When considering what should be in a first aid box for a low-risk environment such as an office, it is useful to start with the basic inventory outlined by HSE. This list recommends that you have:

  • A leaflet explaining the basics of first aid (HSE provides a free ‘Basic advice on first aid at work’ leaflet that you can download and print out for this purpose);
  • Plasters of assorted sizes – these should be individually wrapped and sterile;
  • Individually wrapped and sterile triangle bandages;
  • Safety pins;
  • Sterile eye pads;
  • Unmedicated wound dressings in medium and large sizes (individually wrapped and sterile);
  • Disposable gloves (preferably nitrile).

Additional first aid equipment will depend on the risks identified in your assessment. However, a typical low-risk environment like an office may also benefit from a first aid kit containing the following:

  • Sterile disposable tweezers;
  • Disposable aprons;
  • Clothing shears;
  • Microporous tape (adhesive and hypoallergenic if possible);
  • Tourniquets;
  • Foil blankets;
  • Burn dressings;
  • Sterile eyewash.

These items will be included in all British Standard BS 8599 first aid kits.

All workplace first aid kits should also now contain equipment to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. For example, it is recommended that you provide anti-viral hand sanitiser and masks or face shields for first-aiders to wear as a minimum.

It’s important to note that first aid kits should not contain any medication or tablets.

 

High-risk working environments

First aid needs assessments for high-risk workplaces such as building sites and professional kitchens will likely identify that additional first aid equipment is required. Kits for these types of working environments will need supplies that relate to the specific risks that employees are exposed to.

With this in mind, the sections below provide examples of different types of high-risk workplace, considering the extra first aid kit you might need in each case. Remember that these working environments would still benefit from the basic HSE first aid inventory outlined above.

Construction sites

Employees working in construction are more likely to get injured at work than those based in offices and other low-risk environments. HSE’s latest construction statistics indicate that the most common causes of injury include falls from a height, being trapped by an overturned object, and being struck by a falling object.

With these more serious risks in mind, first aid kits for construction sites will likely need all of the basic first aid equipment outlined above as well as:

  • Tourniquets and haemostatic dressings to stop severe bleeding;
  • Finger dressings;
  • Saline eye pods;
  • Eye baths;
  • Sterile eye pads;
  • Clothing shears;
  • Adhesive hypoallergenic microporous tape;
  • Foil blankets;
  • Burn dressings and gels;
  • Clinical waste bags.

This inventory is intended to give an idea of the types of equipment that construction sites may require – your site’s first aid kit should be based on the findings of your first aid needs assessment, so you may find that you need more than just the items listed here.

For construction environments, it’s also worth investing in a heavy-duty box to keep all of your first aid equipment protected.

Catering environments

Common causes of injury in high-risk catering environments such as commercial kitchens include burns and cuts. As well as the basic first aid kit outlined above, cooking and food preparation environments may also want to consider:

  • Full burns kits, including burn plasters, dressings, bandages, and gels;
  • Finger dressings;
  • Foil blankets;
  • Waterproof plasters;
  • Eyewash kits containing eye baths and solution.

Your first aid needs assessment may identify that you need additional equipment that isn’t listed here – this list only provides an indication of the type of items you might want for a catering first aid kit.

 

How many first aid kits should a workplace have?

British Standard BS 8599 offers suggestions for how many first aid kits a workplace should have as well as the size of these kits. The recommendations depend on how many employees there are and the hazards in the working environment.

The following guidelines apply to low-risk environments:

  • For less than 25 employees, one small kit is recommended;
  • For workplaces with 25-100 employees, one medium kit is recommended;
  • Environments with more than 100 employees should have one large first aid kit per 100 employees.

Additional first aid kits are recommended for high-risk workplaces:

  • One small kit is suggested for environments with up to five employees;
  • For high-risk workplaces with 5-25 employees, one medium first aid kit is recommended;
  • High-risk environments with more than 25 employees are advised to have one large first aid kit for every 25 employees.

 

Where to buy a first aid kit

Pre-packaged first aid kits are widely available online and in stores. Wherever you buy them, be sure to look for kits that conform to British Standard BS 8599, which will ensure that you’ve got all of the recommended equipment as a minimum.

St John Ambulance sells a range of first aid kits in sizes that adhere to the BS 8599 recommendations on small, medium, and large workplace kits, as well as equipment designed for specific situations such as motor travel and burns.

 


 

This guide has explained what should be in a first aid kit for your workplace. Whilst there are no specific legal requirements regarding first aid kit contents, we’ve looked at recommended equipment for a range of low- and high-risk working environments.

If you or your employees need first aid qualifications, take a look at our range of first aid training courses including First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW). Alternatively, get in touch today to find out more.