First Aid 101

First Aid 101

First Aid 101

What is first aid?

First aid is the immediate care given to a person who is injured or who suddenly becomes ill. It can range from cleaning a cut and applying a bandage to helping someone who is choking or having a heart attack.

Why is first aid important?

First aid is an essential part of your company’s emergency response system and overall health and safety program. Think about what could happen if someone at work suddenly stopped breathing and no one knew how to help that person. Or, what if the necessary first aid supplies and equipment weren’t available to help an employee who was bleeding heavily or who had been splashed with a corrosive chemical.

First aid and emergency procedures are not only about compliance. More importantly, you can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.

What does the law say?

According the General Safety Regulations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993), an employer must take “all reasonable steps” to ensure that employees (and even people visiting the premises) receive prompt First Aid treatment in the case of injury or emergency. This includes the training of employees in first aid skills by a recognised training institution.

The Act requires that:

  • In order for your company to pass a Department of Labour audit, 5% of the workforce on duty at any given time must be trained in First Aid by a company that is registered with the Department
  • Teams of at least four employees must practice to work together and share the responsibility. That goes for first aid and fire-fighting, which is also an occupational safety requirement
  • First aid boxes must be provided on site, where people work away from the factory and where deliveries are made. A trained, responsible person must always have the necessary equipment at hand to be able to render an effective first aid service
  • First aid equipment and facilities must be clearly marked by signs as prescribed by law, so anyone who is unfamiliar with the business premises can easily find the first aid equipment. This includes fire extinguishers

How many first aid boxes should be provided?

The number of boxes required should be determined by the employer, taking the following into account:

  • The type of injuries that are likely to occur at a workplace
  • The nature of the activities performed and
  • The number of employees employed at such workplace

Benefits of First Aid training

  1. Reduce the chance of permanent damage (for example, prompt flushing of the eyes with water after a chemical splash can prevent blindness)
  2. Help prevent an injury from becoming more serious (for example, cleaning and bandaging a cut can help prevent infection and further problems);
  3. Minimize the length and extent of medical treatment;
  4. Reduce lost time from work.
  5. Research shows that people trained in first aid have fewer and less severe accidents, both on and off the job, than untrained people.
  6. It has been reported time and again that many lives have been saved due to fast reaction and CPR aid given during critical and life threatening accidents, injuries or health complications in the workplace.
  7. It gives your employees confidence and clarity during an emergency
  8. First aid trainees know exactly what’s in their first aid kits, how to use the contents, and the various ways to react in an emergency. In a beneficial way, it makes each employee an unofficial health and safety risk manager.

Dineo Stiyana

References: Labour guide South Africa,

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