It has been reported by the Office for National Statistics that half of UK workers returned to the workplace in the last week of August, the highest number since lockdown measures were introduced by the government in March. If your business is anything like ours then you will have been creating, reviewing and implementing various Coronavirus workplace policies and risk assessments over the last few months. An area that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have identified which will require careful attention and review during the pandemic is the provision of first aid within your business or organisation.
Under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, employers have a legal obligation to make first aid arrangements for their place of work. As an employer, you will have carried out risk assessments and regularly reviewed your first aid at work needs in the past. However, it’s likely that these needs will have changed as we emerge from lockdown and settle into the ‘new normal’. Assessing the level of risk in these new circumstances and putting in place adequate first aid cover is essential to complying with the law and keeping your workforce safe.
Assessing your workplace’s first aid needs
According to the HSE, first aid provision at work must be ‘adequate and appropriate’. As such, your workplace’s first aid needs assessment should take account of:
- the nature of the work you do;
- workplace hazards and risks;
- the nature and size of your workforce;
- the work patterns of your staff;
- holiday and other absences of first aiders and appointed persons; and
- your organisation’s history of accidents.
In the present circumstances, there may be new factors to consider. For example, the work patterns of your staff may have changed, or you may have trained first aiders who are vulnerable to the virus and therefore reluctant to continue in the role. These considerations will impact the first aid at work needs of your workplace.
Ensuring compliance with legal requirements
Some businesses may find it difficult to maintain adequate first aid cover during the coronavirus crisis. If you are operating on reduced staff numbers, either due to redundancies or increased remote working, you will have to assess whether it is safe to operate with a reduced number of first aiders. Alternatively, you could temporarily share first aiders with another business, as long as you are sure that they know and understand your business’s first aid needs and are able to reach you in sufficient time to deliver care if needed.
Maintaining and renewing first aid qualifications
While first aid training providers have now resumed training and assessment services, employers may find that availability remains limited due to high demand and a backlog of cases. To ease the pressure on businesses, an extension is available on First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) certificates that expired after 16 March 2020. Eligible businesses must meet certain criteria to qualify for an extension of these certificates until 31 October or for six months following expiry, whichever is later. All requalification training must in any event must take place by 31st March 2021.
Keeping your workforce safe
In the current climate, it is highly advisable that employers seek legal guidance if they are at all unsure of their health and safety obligations. Failure to comply with first aid requirements under the law could give rise to prosecution by the HSE and/or claims by employees if they feel they have come to increased harm due to insufficient first aid cover, or if first aiders feel they have been put at risk of coronavirus transmission or contract the disease during the course of their duties. Our experienced health and safety and employment lawyers can help you ensure you’re in compliance with all the necessary health and safety rules, so you can concentrate on getting back on track.
To find our more or if you require legal guidance, please contact a member of the team