First aid at work

by The Findlaw Team

If someone is hurt in an emergency or accident at work, immediate first aid treatment could mean the difference between life and death. This means that employers should make sure there are employees trained in first aid on site to help the injured, and that suitable first aid supplies are readily available.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has a free online guide First aid for Workplaces: A good practice guide that aims to help employers identify what first aid is needed in their workplace.

First aid personnel

While there is no explicit requirement in the legislation requiring employers to provide qualified first aiders, the need for trained first aiders is broadly covered by section 6(e) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE 1992), which states that employers must develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

The MBIE's guidelines makes it clear that employers should carry out a first aid needs assessment, which includes identifying how many qualified first aid personnel are needed. Factors that should be taken into consideration include:

  • The number of employees;
  • The type of work carried out and how hazardous it is;
  • The size and location of the workplace;
  • How long medical assistance would take to arrive;
  • Whether shift work is involved; and
  • Whether assistance from a registered nurse or medical practitioner is available on site.

Employers should ensure that first aid cover is available on all shifts by managing rosters and planned or unplanned absences so that the appropriate number of first aid personnel are provided in the workplace.

First aid personnel should be trained by, and hold a current first aid certificate from, an organisation approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, eg The Order of St John, or the New Zealand Red Cross Society. Refresher training every 2 years is required to keep a first aid certificate current.

First aid supplies

Regulation 4(2)(d) of the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995 requires employers to provide first aid facilities at every place under their control. Regulation 4(1) provides that these facilities must be:

  • Suitable for their intended purpose;
  • Provided in sufficient numbers
  • Maintained in good order and condition; and
  • Conveniently accessible to all employees.

First aid kits

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s guidance on first aid states that there should be at least one first aid kit in every workplace (with at least one kit for every 50 employees) in a clearly identified and readily accessible location, preferably near a hand basin that is supplied with hot and cold running water, soap, and clean towels. If the workplace is on more than one level, there should be at least one kit provided for each floor.

There should be a system to regularly check, replenish, and replace items that have been used or passed their “use by” date. Fully stocked first aid kits should be kept on all work premises and it may be necessary to have more than one kit.

Employers should decide on the contents of first aid kits on the basis of the results of their first aid needs assessment. 

The guide addresses the question of over-the-counter pain relief, and concludes that the decision of whether or not to supply such pain relief is one for the employer to make. It does note, however, that pain relief can only be administered by someone medically trained to do so, and if employers do decide to make pain relief available (for example if the workplace is a long way from somewhere that sells it), then it should be by self-administration only. Nevertheless, the employer should monitor the use of pain relief provided.

Travelling first aid kits

The HSE Act 1992 makes it clear that employers must protect the health and safety of mobile workers. Where the workplace includes vehicles in which employees are travelling, an employer’s duties extend not only to ensuring that any vehicle an employee is required to drive or travel in is safe and roadworthy, but also that there are adequate first aid supplies available to treat any likely injury. This usually means that the vehicle should have an appropriate travelling first aid kit.

Employers should also make provision for mobile workers to summon help in the event of an injury, eg mobile phones, radio access, GPS or a phone check-in procedure.

First aid rooms and equipment

Provision of first aid rooms and equipment comes under regulation 4(2)(d) of the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995, which requires employers to provide first aid facilities at every place under their control. Regulation 4(1) provides that these facilities must be:

  • Suitable for their intended purpose;
  • Provided in sufficient numbers;
  • Maintained in good order and condition; and
  • Conveniently accessible to all employees.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s guide suggests that employers of large enterprises (eg employing more than 100 people) may consider providing a first aid room. This reflects the now revoked requirement under the Factories and Commercial Premises (First Aid) Regulations 1985 to provide a first aid room where more than 100 people were working at any one time.

The MBIE’s guide also suggests a first aid room may be needed where there are less than 100 people working, if access to medical facilities is difficult or where there are significant hazards in the workplace.

First aid rooms should preferably be used only for first aid, although the guide accepts that employers may consider using it for workers who wish to breastfeed their baby at work. The room should be available whenever people are at work.

Register of first aid treatment

The requirement for employers to keep a register of first aid treatment under the Factories and Commercial Premises (First Aid) Regulations 1985 was revoked. However, the requirement to keep an accident register (under section 25 of the HSE Act 1992) remains, and the treatment given to an injured person must be recorded in the accident register.



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