Updated May, 2021
A common session in all of our First Aid courses is “What should I put in my first Aid Kit?” Although there are various list of suggested contents, students are always interested in our opinion as trainers too. Ultimately, the straight answer is “include whatever you think you might need”. But how do you work this out?
What is the Law regarding first aid kits?
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), who regulate First Aid at Work, puts the onus back onto the employer:
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.”
The contents of your first aid kit should be based on your First Aid Needs Assessment. You as a business manager (either self-employed or with staff) are required to identify your needs in terms of first aid cover required for your business. This will influence the number of first aiders you will need, and the type of course they should be doing and also the type of first aid kits you should have.
You can download our First Aid Needs Assessment guide which will help to determine the what your likely hazards and risks are, and therefore what you might need to have in your first aid box. The results of the needs assessment are dependent on the degree of hazard, additional factors that could influence your overall first-aid provision, and the number of employees in your workplace.
So, what should I put in my first aid kit?
As a guide, where work activities are low-risk (for example, desk-based work) a minimum first aid kit might contain:
- a leaflet with general guidance on first aid (for example, HSE’s leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work
- a faceshield for doing CPR
- individually wrapped sterile plasters of assorted sizes
- sterile eye pads
- individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile
- safety pins
- large and medium-sized sterile, individually wrapped, unmedicated wound dressings
- disposable gloves
- good quality scissors and tape
- Covid protection kit such as additional facemasks, gloves, hand gel, goggles or a full faceshield.
This is a suggested contents list. British Standard 8599-1 (workplace) and BS8599-2 (vehicle) kits are a good place to start, but don’t be confused into thinking these are what you must have. If you are buying a kit look for British Standard (BS) 8599. By law, your kit doesn’t have to meet this standard but you should check it contains what you’ve identified in your needs assessment.
You also have other clues as to the potential contents of your First Aid Kits at work – looking at your Risk Assessments, Accident book and the characteristics of your clients or staff will give you lots of ‘what ifs‘ to consider. Lone working is often a factor that we forget to consider. This may influence both the contents and the number of first aid kits you may need.
When looking for a kit to buy, consider the size of the kit, whether it needs to be waterproof, to be hung on a wall bracket or carried like a rucksack. Buy the ‘vessel’ that best suits your business and then fill it with the appropriate content.
Outdoor First Aid Kits
As an outdoor practitioner, you will have different things to consider as well as the standard content list. Pack size and weight of your first aid kit can be a factor. The requirement to potentially look after a casualty for a longer period of time in a difficult environment is also worth preparing for. What do you have in your kit to insulate and protect your casualty in a changing environment? For this reason on our Outdoor First Aid 2 Day courses, we emphasise – and practice- the need to improvise and be resourceful.
Some items to consider in your Outdoor First Aid Kit (in addition to the standard list above):
- A waterproof first aid kit , either a bag or box
- Medical scissors – for cutting through clothes to attend to or investigate a wound or break. They are also useful for cutting clothing to make bandages! These are often sold as ‘tuff-kut’ or ‘medi-scissors’
- Several good quality calico or linen triangular bandages
- Blister pads
- Foil blankets – to keep your casualty warm – and you whilst you’re waiting for Mountain Rescue
- Good quality tape – zinc oxide or electrical tape for binding and splinting
- Tick removers
- An outdoor whistle and torch
- Casualty monitoring sheet & pencil (You can download our free card from our website)
- Larger bandages such as Israeli bandages, haemostatic bandages and/or a tourniquet
- Permanent marker to mark time on a tourniquet or the pulse point on a casualty
Sports First Aid Kits:
However in the context of sports first aid, you may have serious injuries to deal with but don’t have to carry your first aid kit about with you all day. You can afford to have a bigger pack with more in it as long as its easily accessible. You may have to keep a casualty warm and dry for a period of time however, and your casualty isn’t likely to be wearing more than shorts and a t-shirt. So think about the season in which your sport takes place if it’s outside, and the likely weather conditions and temperature. Consider some of the items listed for the Outdoor First Aid Kit. These can be in a kit bag or in your First Aid Room.
High Risk occupations such as Forestry and Farming:
Workers in situations that would be considered high risk, such as forestry or heavy industry, may want to consider including equipment to deal with life threatening bleeding. Additional training is required for this type of kit and is covered in out Outdoor and Forestry courses. A critical injury pack like the one above may save a life one day – but only if you’ve done your risk assessment, training and have your kit with you. Read our blog on how to deal with life threatening bleeding.
What about medications?
When carrying out first aid in a ‘professional’ setting where you have duty of care, we cannot use medications of any sort. First aid sprays, creams, painkillers, antihistamines are not standard first aid kit items. This is because we do not know the medical history of the casualty, their allergies or reactions. For example, giving Ibuprofen to an asthmatic may result in an asthmatic episode going against the first aid principle of ‘preventing worsening’.
However, it is now accepted that aspirin can be carried in a first aid kit in case of heart attacks. This should only be offered to a casualty who is not allergic to aspirin and who consents to take it. This is covered in all of our first aid courses.
In addition, educational establishments are now allowed to carry spare medications for students including asthma inhalers and epi-pens. You can read more about this in our blog on the new regulations for personal medicines in educational settings.
First Aid in a non-workplace setting
If you aren’t doing first aid in a workplace setting, your own activity risk assessment should guide you. As a general rule, keep it simple, and try and consider the types of situation that you are most likely to deal with. Also consider if you’re out and about on the hill, on your bike or on the water, what situations might you come across where you can help as a first aider – but only if you have your first aid kit with you.