What should you put in a first aid kit? In our previous blog, we looked at what colour a first aid kit should be (green with a white cross), the cleanliness of the inside and outside of the first aid kit and we talked about checking a first aid kit on a regular basis.
What we did not look at, however, was what should go in the kit.
Yes, you could go to a shop or buy one online, but will that contain the correct items? Considering the fact that many first aid kits that are sold in the UK are actually the wrong colour, can we trust that the contents are correct? We think not.
There is guidance, in the form of British Standard BS 8599, of what should go in a first aid kit, and most first aid kits that you can buy 'off the shelf' abide by that guidance. However, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) clearly states that:
There is a British Standard BS 8599 for first aid kits, it is not a regulatory requirement under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to purchase kits that comply with this standard. Instead the contents of a first aid box is dependent on an employers first aid needs assessment.
This means for employers following a needs assessment the options are:
1. Within your workplace you have access to a first aid kit whose contents complies with BS 8599 and matches or exceeds the findings from your needs assessment;
2. Within your workplace you have access to a first aid kit whose contents matches the findings from your needs assessment but does not comply with the requirements of BS 8599.
So, it all depends on your needs assessment.
In this leaflet by the HSE it again clearly states that
'The contents of any first-aid kit should reflect the outcome of your first-aid needs assessment.'
The suggested content list of BS 8599 is
• a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid
• individually wrapped sterile plasters (of assorted sizes)
• sterile eye pads
• individually wrapped triangular bandages
• safety pins
• large, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings
• medium-sized, individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings
• disposable gloves
Let's go through that list on an individual basis.
• a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid - that is very handy indeed, because who can remember everything they have learned in their last first aid training course? Make sure the leaflet, or why not a copy of our Emergency First Aid at Work book, is up to date.
• individually wrapped sterile plasters (of assorted sizes) - always have assorted sizes. Plasters that are to be used where food is prepared or served need to be brightly coloured (usually blue, like these that we sell in our shop.
• sterile eye pads - if someone has an eye injury, you could either use eye pads, or two sterile bandages instead. Yes, I said two. If someone has an eye injury, you have to bandage up both eyes. If you work with chemicals or there are other risks identified in your needs assessment, then eye wash vials or eye wash stations may be needed as well.
• individually wrapped triangular bandages - triangular bandages (often called slings) are useful for both elevated slings and support slings. They do not need to be sterile as they will not be touching wounds directly. You can buy calico or non-woven ones - calico are of a strong material that will not rip and can be washed after use, non-woven ones easily rip and are one time use only (these latter are the ones you'll find in most first aid kits - in our kits, we only use quality calico ones).
• safety pins - totally not needed and present a danger of puncture wounds. You will, however, always find them in shop bought kits...
• individually wrapped, sterile, unmedicated wound dressings - you'll want several of a variety of sizes. Injuries can occur in different locations of the body, and even at several places at the same time. Also, different people have different body sizes. If you cover a wound with a bandage and blood is still coming through, put a second one over it. Is blood still coming through? Cut the bandages off and start again. To do this, you'll need scissors; scissors that do not have sharp edges and can cut through both clothing and bandages. That rules out the little child's scissors you'll find in retail kits - use our Tuff Kut Scissors instead.
• disposable gloves - very important to have at hand (pun intended). Have different sizes and several pairs.
There are other items that we'd like in our first aid kits.
• Tuff Kut Scissors we've already mentioned, for cutting through clothing and layers of bandages.
• eye wash - depending on your needs assessment, you may have discovered a risk of chemicals splashing into an eye. If so, you may need eye wash bottles or a full-on eye wash station
• crepe bandages or other stretchy bandages, which might be needed for sprains and strains. Is this likely to be needed at your workplace? As a sports coach I carried several at all times.
• cold packs - either the ones that you put in the freezer (if there is one near at hand) or these Koolpaks that you can carry around with you. For sprains, strains and bruises.
• face shields/barriers in case one needs to provide basic life support,
• finger dressings - very much a personal preference item, large plasters of small bandages could be used instead.
• heat retaining blanket - in case you work outside or take a group of people outside, they are injured or ill and might suffer from hypothermia. Inside, a normal blanket or coats will do just fine.
• microporous tape - always useful. It's like duct tape for first aid. Can't quite get that bandage right? Tape it. Plaster won't stick on? Tape it. And so forth.
• sterile cleansing wipes - do not clean the actual wound with them (use water instead if needed) but very useful for cleaning the area around the wound with.
• clinical waste bag - handy if you've got bodily fluids to deal with, like blood and vomit. Simply give to the ambulance crew to dispose of.
• and whatever else I might have forgotten to mention here. Remember it is your first aid needs assessment that determines what you might possibly need.
The contents of a first aid kit are decided solely by a first aid needs assessment. There is a British Standard BS 8599 but that is for guidance only, contains sharp safety pins and is missing many other needed items.
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 contain guidance on first aids needs assessments.