What is the regulatory basis for the requirement to have first aid kits in the workplace?
The South Australian Government has approved the Code to come into effect on 10 December 2010, under which every workplace is required to have ready access to:
- at least one or more Standard Workplace First Aid Kit(s) and/or Small Workplace First Aid Kit(s), and
- any other additional first aid modules or items required to appropriately treat all reasonably foreseeable injuries or illnesses that could occur as a result of being at the workplace or as a result of the work performed there.
What type of first aid kit do I need?
The Small and Standard Workplace First Aid Kits specified in the Code are designed to cater for the following types of injuries or illnesses:
- cuts, scratches, punctures, grazes, splinters and animal bites
- minor burns
- major bleeding wounds and/or amputations
- broken bones
- eye injuries
- cardiac arrest.
To determine in what instances Small vs Standard kits may be applicable, consider the size and location of your workforce, the quantities of equipment required, the nature of your risks and what type of kit is most practical for ease of use.
Also consider each of the following issues and act accordingly:
(a) Type of injury or illness - looking at the list above, are there any other types of injuries and illnesses that are reasonably foreseeable given your type of workplace or the work done there? If so, find out what items you would need to treat these other potential injuries or illnesses, and add them to your kit contents. For example:
- for potential snake bites or insect stings, check the Outdoor Module in the Code (refer section 2.7)
- for potential serious burns, check the Burn Injury Module in the Code (refer sections 2.9 - 2.11).
(b) Hazardous substances - are there any additional items required because of the types of hazardous substances you have at your workplace? Check the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each hazardous substance stored or used at your workplace to see if there are any additional kit items or facilities required for first aid that should be provided (as stated in Section 4 ‘First Aid Measures’ of your MSDS for the substance or substances in question).
(c) Item numbers and quantities - do you need more than the minimum number or quantity of each item listed in the kits? For example, the amount of saline required for flushing eyes and wounds is a minimum, but if your employees work outdoors in dusty conditions you may need to add more saline to your kit.
How do we work out how many kits we need and what to put in them?
The Code (paragraphs 2.1 to 2.17) includes:
- a list of the minimum contents for the Standard Workplace First Aid Kit and/or Small Workplace First Aid Kit (Table 1)
- information to help you determine if you need more than the minimum contents in your kit (e.g. if you also need the module for serious burns or outdoor work).
To work out the number of kits for your workplace, you need to be able to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the time taken to retrieve a first aid kit and return to a seriously ill/injured person is no more than four minutes. Therefore it may be better to have two small kits in different locations in your workplace rather than one larger centrally located kit.
I have an existing kit – do I need to replace it?
If your existing first aid kit already complies with Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requirements (check for the TGA approval number on the kit or ask your supplier), you may not need to buy a whole new kit. You could convert or retrofit your existing kit instead. However, depending on how many individual new items you need to buy, it may be cheaper to buy a new kit. If you want to consider the retrofit option, refer to Tables 2 and 3 on the following pages for details of how to convert existing Basic First Aid Kits to the minimum standard. Don’t forget to also add any additional kit items you need as a result of answering the above.
Paracetamol is no longer recommended for inclusion in first aid kits as like many drugs it can be dangerous if not taken in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and/or advice from a doctor or pharmacist. The Department of Health and Ageing Therapeutic Goods Administration has produced a web-based fact sheet ‘Information for consumers – paracetamol’ on the safe use of paracetamol – go to http://www.tga.gov.au/docs/html/paracetco.htm
What is a ‘Module’ in a first aid kit?
The term ‘module’ has been used for some time, including in the former Code, to describe a group (or module) of additional items to be added to first aid kits and first aid rooms in workplaces where specific hazards exist. In the former Code, these were the Eye Module, the Burns Module and the Remote Module. In the new Code the Eye Module has been removed as a requirement (minimum kit contents now include items for treatment of eye injuries, such as saline solution). A new Burns Injury Module has been developed in conjunction with the Burns Council of SA. The old Remote Module has been revised and a new Outdoor Module developed.
The Code mentions that first aid kits must be marked with an approval number issued by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. What is this number?
The Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) is a computer database of therapeutic goods (medical devices and medicines) established under the Australian Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Because of the type of items contained in first aid kits (such as face masks for resuscitation) they are categorised as medical devices. In Australia the manufacturer of a first aid kit must apply to the ARTG for approval to manufacture and supply particular types of first aid kits. If approval is given, ARTG issues an approval number to the supplier to put on their kits.
The main thing to remember is that, for the purpose of the Code, kits should have an ARTG approval number because it provides some reassurance that the contents of those kits meet any relevant medical standard.