Feb 12, 2013

First Aid Kits

Legal requirement or new standards? Which one would you follow?

The guidance for the standard of the contents of First Aid kits has long been established in this country by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). However in 2011 the British Standards Institute (BSI) introduced a new standard which suggested that those kits approved by the HSE were no longer good enough.

This new standard implied that the contents of kits approved by the HSE would no longer meet the legal requirements. Unfortunately for BSI this was and continues not to be the case. There is no legal requirement stipulating what should be included in a first aid kit. The legislation simply states that first aid equipment must be supplied and that it must be of a certain standard i.e. CE marked, but the legislation doesn’t say what should be in the kit.

The BSI approved kits, which apparently tend to be more expensive than those approved by the HSE; include such items as creams and dressings for burns. However this goes against current training guidelines for first aid treatment of burns which discourages the use of any form of cream in favour of cooling the affected area with water for at least ten minutes and then protecting severe burns with cling film and normal dressings from the first aid kit.

In some respects the use of creams even if they are specifically designed for treating burns may be more problematic than using water. For example there may be some casualties who have an allergic reaction to the cream after it has been applied to the burn. Then again creams like most medications will have a shelf life after which they should not be used so there’s an additional cost to replace used or out of date tubes of cream.

Good old fashioned clean fresh cool water presents none of these problems unless the first aider inadvertently over cools the casualty rather than the burn itself and as a result induces hypothermia. That fortunately is a very unlikely situation given the standard of first aid training available today.

Although the HSE’s guidance on the contents to be included in the first aid kit hasn’t changed it is arguable that even this guidance would provide more items than are likely to be used if you work in a relatively low risk environment such as an office.

If a risk assessment of the workplace has been carried out and referenced with historical accident statistics it could be argued that it is unnecessary to restock the first aid box to the HSE guidelines in low hazard environments. However this only works if there is a policy to regularly review and replace used and out of date dressings.


The current HSE guidance for the contents of a first aid kit is as follows:

20           Individually sterile plasters (assorted sizes)

2              Sterile Eye Pads

4              Individually wrapped triangular bandages

2              Large sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings

6              Medium sized individually wrapped sterile unmedicated wound dressings

1              Pair of disposable gloves

6              Safety Pins


For further information please contact us:

Colin Coleman

Health and Safety Consultant