In the event of injury or sudden illness, failure to provide first aid could result in a casualty's death. The employer should ensure that an employee who is injured or taken ill at work receives immediate attention.

HSE will prosecute in cases where there is a significant risk, a disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance with the law. More information can be found in

HSE's Enforcement Policy Statement.

Employers' legal duties

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) 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 at work. These Regulations apply to all workplaces including those with less than five employees and to the self-employed.

What is 'adequate and appropriate' will depend on the circumstances in the workplace. This includes whether trained first-aiders are needed, what should be included in a first-aid box and if a first-aid room is required. Employers should carry out an assessment of first-aid needs to determine what to provide.

The Regulations do not place a legal duty on employers to make first-aid provision for non-employees such as the public or children in schools. However, HSE strongly recommends that non-employees are included in an assessment of first-aid needs and that provision is made for them.

Further guidance can be found making adequate and appropriate provision for first aid in First aid at work: The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 - Guidance on Regulation.

Assessment of first-aid needs

Employers are required to carry out an assessment of first-aid needs. This involves consideration of workplace hazards and risks, the size of the organisation and other relevant factors, to determine what first-aid equipment, facilities and personnel should be provided.

First aid at work: your questions answered
A free HSE leaflet, which contains a useful checklist covering the points employers should consider when carrying out the assessment.

Application of the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to self-employed workers

If you are self employed you are required to ensure you have such equipment, as may be adequate and appropriate in the circumstances, to provide first aid to yourself while at work.

You should make an assessment of the hazards and risks in your workplace and establish an appropriate level of first-aid provision. If you carry out activities involving low hazards (eg clerical work) in your own home, you would not be expected to provide first-aid equipment beyond your normal domestic needs. If your work involves driving long distances or you are continuously on the road, the assessment may identify the need to keep a personal first-aid kit in your vehicle.

Many self-employed people work on mixed premises with other self-employed or employed workers. Although you are legally responsible for your own first-aid provision, it is sensible to make joint arrangements with the other occupiers and self-employed workers on the premises. This would generally mean that one employer would take responsibility for first aid for all workers on the premises. HSE strongly recommends there is a written agreement for any such arrangement.

Special requirements for offshore work

Industry-specific legislation exists for the offshore industry to take account of the remoteness and difficulties associated with access to medical and health care expertise. The Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works (First-Aid) Regulations came into force in 1989. The Regulations require the person in control (such as an installation operator) to provide suitable medical and first-aid facilities, as well as sufficiently trained and competent first-aiders and offshore medics. The person in control should assess the level of first aid and health care provision needed on individual installations or barges. This will include how many trained offshore medics and first-aiders are needed, the amount and type of equipment and the types of drugs supplied. A minimum equipment list can be found in First aid and medical equipment on offshore installations, produced by the Oil and Gas UK .

The person in control has to ensure that adequate health care and first aid is provided for everyone on the installation or barge, including visitors and contractors. This extends to people working on certain associated vessels (eg during installation commissioning or decommissioning). The person in control also has to make arrangements for a registered medical practitioner to supervise the offshore medic and give advice if necessary. This practitioner is usually based onshore. The offshore medic would normally have responsibility for the sickbay. The size, siting, layout and facilities of the sickbay should be sufficient to provide accommodation and medical support for an ill or injured person for up to 48 hours – see the Oil and Gas UK publication above for more information.

Detailed information can be found in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance, Health care and first aid on offshore installations and pipeline works. This publication was revised in 2000 and provides supporting guidance to the Regulations. The Oil and Gas UK guidance referred to above should also be read in conjunction with this publication.

More information on the offshore industry can be found in HSE's Offshore website.

Special requirements for diving

Under the Diving at Work Regulations 1997, a diving contractor is required to provide medical and first-aid equipment during a diving project. In the event of a diving medical incident, the diving supervisor remains in control of any action to be taken.

HSE's web pages on diving include information on first-aid requirements for commercial inland/inshore and offshore diving projects.

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