Health and safety gone sensible?

Applying a dressing

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is helping businesses save time and money by simplifying the first aid at work regulation guidance from 1 October – the first changes for over 25 years.

However with more injuries occurring in offices than on construction sites, companies are being warned to be realistic of their risks.

Offices potentially more dangerous than building sites

Each year six million days are lost to workplace injury and there are 180 workplace deaths. Disappointingly, leading first aid charity St John Ambulance found that compliance to first aid at work regulations was at a minimum, with 79% of businesses saying they had times when no first aider is present.*

The new advice makes it clear what is required of businesses in terms of a risk assessment.

Richard Evens
St John Ambulance Commercial Marketing Director

Since the last alterations to the regulations in 1981 workplaces have changed. Refreshingly the HSE has listened to businesses to make it easier for them to understand what is needed and to comply.

Richard Evens, Commercial Marketing Director at St John Ambulance, which was involved in the HSE consultation, says: ‘It really is a case of health and safety “gone sensible”. The HSE has realised that it was hard for businesses to comply without compromising their bottom line. The new advice makes it clear what is required of businesses in terms of a risk assessment and now the first aid training is shorter so businesses get staff back quicker without losing any vital life saving skills.

From our own research** we’ve found that nearly half of the first aid incidents in the office involved giving life saving CPR to a colleague, compare to just 21% of incidents on a building site which is usually seen as higher risk.’

With the new changes:

  • staff taking the main First aid at work qualification will only be away from work for three days instead of four (learning the same key knowledge but in a more interactive, streamlined way)
  • businesses are being given the choice of an even shorter one-day qualification if they determine that less first aid knowledge is needed in their workplace
  • first aiders are strongly recommended by the HSE to attend a three hour annual refresher to keep life saving skills updated
  • the HSE estimates savings in the first year of the new regime to be £52 million.

The other big change is that instead of the traditional low, medium and high risk bands which determine how many first aiders a business should have, companies are being advised to carry out a risk assessment to determine what is right for their own workplace.

St John Ambulance has set up online risk assessment tools on their website to guide customers through the changes and help them calculate the level of risk in their business and which courses to choose.

*2,800 businesses were surveyed
**3, 500 trained first aiders were asked by St John Ambulance what incidents they faced