The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to “provide such equipment and facilities as are adequate and appropriate in the circumstances for enabling first-aid to be rendered to employees if they are injured or become ill at work.” The regulations do not explain what is adequate and appropriate. Guidance is given in an HSE published Approved Code of Practice (ACoP). Last revised in 2009 the ACoP says that the contents of the first aid box should be based on an assessment of what is necessary for the hazards and risks at the particular place of work. The code of practice suggests a minimum suitable stock of first aid items for places “where work activities involve low hazards.” This list is reproduced in Peninsula Health and Safety Guidance Note 3-1 First Aid, which is available to our Health and Safety clients.

BS 8599 is an entirely new standard. It has its origins in and replaces BHTA (British Healthcare Trades Association) guidelines on the contents of first aid kits that were published in 1997. These guidelines are not mentioned in the Approved Code of Practice. The key legal requirement is to assess what is necessary for your workplace. In ‘low hazard low risk’ workplaces a first aid kit stocked to the new BS could be over the top, whereas in some higher risk premises the nature of the hazards present and the work done could make even a BS approved kit too small.

Suppliers will tell you “As member of the BSi standards committee, the HSE have been heavily involved with the development of the new standard.” They seek to give the impression that, because of the HSE’s involvement, the new standard has some legal standing.

That is not the view of the Health and Safety Executive. The Federation of First Aid Training Organisations recently sought the view of the Executive when they heard similar claims being made by BHTA members and first aid suppliers. The response confirms that the position set out in the Approved Code of Practice has not changed. Confirming advice given in a telephone call, Andrew Moor of HSE’s Corporate Medical Unit wrote –
“As I said in our telephone conversation from HSE’s perspective the contents of the first aid kit are dependent on the needs assessment. All L74 provides is a suggested minimum list of contents for a low hazard environment.
It doesn’t matter, provided the needs assessment has been done whether a duty holder creates, purchases a kit of (sic) the shelf or a bespoke first aid kit, or purchases a kit that matches standard BS 8599. HSE will not be taking action against anyone who has a non-BS8599 kit but it meets the needs assessment of that workplace after the 31st December 2011. Obviously, purchasing a BS5899 kit could provide one means for a duty holder to discharge part of their first aid responsibilities but it is not the only way.”

If you have assessed your first aid needs and the first aid kit you have meets those needs you have complied with your legal obligation. Whatever the sales rep. says you do not need to replace it with one that meets the new British Standard. Do not be pressured into spending where there is no need to do so.

For more information on first aid please contact Peninsula’s Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.