Health and safety
02 November 2016
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 place a duty on employers to provide adequate first aid to staff that are injured or become ill at work.

In Northern Ireland, the same duty is placed on employers by the Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1982.

The aim is to ensure that all staff have access to and are informed about first aid equipment, facilities and personnel.

First aiders

A first aider is someone who holds a first aid course certificate from a competent first aid training provider. Those who become first aiders do so on a voluntary basis, unless it is part of their contract of employment.

The regulations do not lay down precise numbers of first aiders. However, employers must carry out a risk assessment of their first aid provisions. In so doing, educational establishments should consider:

  • specific hazards or risks, both on and off site (eg school trips)
  • numbers of staff and students
  • staff or students with special health needs or disabilities
  • whether they are on split sites and/or levels
  • their location(s)
  • accident statistics
  • remote or lone staff and those working out of hours
  • adequate provision in practical subjects, such as PE and science
  • absences of first aiders or the appointed person.

Appointed persons

They take charge of first aid arrangements, including calling the emergency services and looking after the equipment, eg restocking the first aid box. This is a minimum requirement. It is good practice to ensure that appointed persons undergo emergency first aid training, which normally lasts for at least four hours and covers topics such as: what to do in an emergency; resuscitation; and first aid for someone who is unconscious, wounded or bleeding.

However, appointed persons are not permanent alternatives to first aiders and should not give first aid treatment for which they have not been trained.


The regulations do not oblige employers to provide first aid for anyone other than their staff. However, as employers have legal responsibilities to those in their care, educational establishments must include students when carrying out risk assessments for first aid needs.

Issues to consider when determining the number of first aiders required include:

  • the size and location of the school/college
  • whether the site is split or on different levels
  • students with special health needs or disabilities.

Accident statistics can also highlight when and where injuries are most likely to occur. For example, statistically, PE is the subject that tends to result in most injuries to pupils. Consideration should also be given to first aid provision during off-site activities and during lunchtimes and breaks.

First-aid boxes

As a minimum, there should be a fully stocked first aid box for each site. The HSE recommends that each box should contain:

  • a general guidance card on first aid
  • 20 individually wrapped, sterile adhesive dressings (assorted sizes)
  • 2 sterile eye pads
  • 4 individually wrapped triangular bandages
  • 6 safety pins
  • 6 medium sized, individually wrapped, sterile unmedicated wound dressings
  • 2 large, sterile, individually wrapped, unmedicated wound dressings
  • 1 pair of disposable gloves.

Educational establishments should, before engaging in activities off site, assess the amount of stock required in their travelling first aid boxes.

First-aid rooms

Suitable first aid accommodation must be provided by the employer. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 require every maintained school to have a suitable room that can be used for medical or dental treatment when required and for the care of pupils during school hours. This room can be used for first aid.

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