What is a First Aid Needs Assessment?
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Undertaking a first aid “needs assessment” is a critical part of everyone’s first aid preparation, from the young family to the multi-national business and everywhere in between. In this blog I’m going to introduce you to the concept of a needs assessment & guide you through how to undertake yours.
Table of contents
The opening question
A good friend of mine had a car crash last year; in the car with him were his wife and two young children. Fortunately none of them were badly injured despite the car being written-off. A few weeks later he called me and asked “what sort of first aid kit should I get?”. My obvious reaction to this was “one that you know how to use”.
There’s no point in having all manner of fancy and technical equipment, if you haven’t got a clue how to use any of it.
So what you need to do is some pre-planning; a first aid needs assessment. You need to figure out exactly what you’re likely to come up against, whether it’s grazed knees or crocodile bites, then develop your first aid kit to meet those needs. This is exactly what businesses have to do as well. When you’ve completed this, you can then move on to developing your skills and knowledge.
Naturally there’s some guidance on what should be in a first aid kit. You can read our blog about this here.
Kitchens or crocodiles?
So what are you likely to have to deal with? If it’s just cutting your finger while preparing a family meal, then a small first aid kit from a supermarket will probably do. If your kitchen happens to be in a hotel, it won’t.
Ultimately you need to make an assessment of your needs. Your “Needs Assessment”, as they’re called, has to take into account exactly what it is that you’re doing or the nature of work being undertaken. If you’re working in a small office with two colleagues and only doing clerical work, then the potential for you to become injured is fairly slim. If you’re a tree surgeon, then the chances of you becoming injured are definitely higher. So think about what it is that you’re doing and what sort of things have the potential to injure you and how badly.
Here’s the link to the guidance (L74) issued by the Health & Safety Executive that is there to help you comply with the Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981. It includes a large section on what you need to do in terms of undertaking your needs assessment.
The first thing to think about in your first aid needs assessment, are the hazards and risks that you’re like to come up against. A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm (the crocodile). The level of risk associated with the hazard will change depending on what is protecting you from the hazard. If you’ve fed the crocodile this week and it’s safely locked away in its home, then the level of risk is going to be fairly low. If you’ve not fed it for a while and it’s free to roam around, then the level of risk is significantly higher. The hazard itself remains the same as the crocodile is still a crocodile.
When you’re happy that you’ve identified the level of potential risk given the likely hazards, think about your accident history. If you’re really accident prone, then the likelihood is that you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure your safety & that of those around you. Likewise, if you’re doing this for your young family, lack of knowledge and life experience will mean that babies and children are at increased risk of becoming injured while they learn about the dangers around them.
Businesses can do this by referring to their accident books and tracking back to see how many accidents they’ve had over the last month, 6 months or 12 months. This is both good Health and Safety practice and also a key part to compliance with the Management of Health & Safety Regulations.
Consider your location
By this stage you know what it is that you’re doing, how dangerous it might be & how safe you are normally. That’s great, but where are you going to be doing whatever it is that you’re doing & how far away are the emergency services likely to be?
If you’re undertaking a sponsored hike up Mount Snowdon with a group of unfit 80 year olds and your all planning on trying out sward swallowing and fire walking when you get to the top, then things are probably going to go awry. Getting to the top of Snowdon in the summer is not too bad, assuming that you take the train. However if something were to go wrong, how would help get to you and how long would it take them? Undertaking the same activity on the depths of winter is a different kettle of fish. If it were raining and blowing a gale when one of your party stumbled an twisted an ankle, what sort of shelter would you have available? The cafés are almost certainly going to be closed, so unless you’ve taken something with you, you’re going to be exposed to whatever nature throws at you.
As part of your first aid needs assessment, you need to take into consideration whether you’re undertaking remote or lone working. Where these to take place, a business would need to put into place various safety measures to ensure the safety of their employees, so far as reasonably practicable. This is a fundamental requirement of the Health & Safety at Work Act. It’s something that you can do at home as well. If you’re heading out for the day, have your route planned and ensure that someone else has a copy of your planned route including estimated start and finish times. It’s also a good idea to make sure that there is an agreed “if we’re not back by this time, then call in the cavalry” emergency procedure.
Is there anyone there?
The next step is less applicable to the home, but is absolutely critical to business needs assessments. Work patterns, annual leave & sickness absence have to be taken into consideration. There is absolutely no point in having loads of first aid trained staff if they all only work on the day shift with no first aiders working the night shift. Equally, if they all take their lunch or annual leave at the same time, you’re also going to be without a first aider as they shouldn’t be called upon during their breaks, assuming that they’re in the building.
So who are you going to choose to be your nominated first aider? Whoever they are, they should be competent to deal with a range of situations likely to befall your family or colleagues.
Anyone in their first few years of life are likely to gain injuries typical of those still learning and developing their fine and gross motor skills. Falling out of trees, breaking arms, bumping heads & getting meningitis are most likely at this age. So knowing how to recognise and provide first aid for these would be reasonable. Similarly, if the those around you are all middle-late age, having an understanding of heart attacks and dementia might be more prudent.
Something else to consider in your first aid needs assessment, is where our family or colleagues are located. Are they all together, or separated across different rooms or even buildings? If you’re undertaking a needs assessment for a business then this is a critical part of the assessment. A workforce that’s scattered across a larger work site will mean that you need to consider having several first aid kits (or even first aid rooms) located across the site, close to where your colleagues are working.
You also need to consider whether the venue is shared by other people or organisations. A typical example of this would be a co-worker environment, where there are a number of businesses all working in the same room or building. While they should all have their own first aid provision, there may be a centrally provided first aid resource provided by whomever is hiring out desks to the businesses in the room. On construction sites, the Principal Contractor has to control the site and provide the first aid provision. Where there are businesses working in this way, the Health and Safety executive recommend that there is a written agreement in place to formalise the provision of first aid to an injured worker.
You may think that we’ve finished, but we haven’t as we need to consider those around us. In terms of a business, we need to make provision for non-employees. A restaurant would need to look after its customers; a primary school, the children. In many of these cases, there can be significantly more customers than staff, so this can have a huge impact on our first aid provision. We’re likely to need more first aiders and a significantly bigger first aid kit, or even several more kits. We might even have to have specialist knowledge of conditions that customers may suffer from.
The range of skills that we may need can be huge. For example, primary & junior schools need to make provision for both the teachers, parents & other staff (adult workplace first aid) as well as the attending children (paediatric first aid). What would it be reasonable for your business to provide?
First Aid Needs Assessment – Our thoughts
While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, it should give you a good starting point for your first aid needs assessment. This will then help you work out exactly what it is that you need in terms of being able to provide first aid to your family, colleagues or clients.
Don’t forget, you need to review your first aid needs assessment & the provisions that you’ve made periodically. Personally I do this annually. You also need to review it after any operating changes to ensure that your provision remains appropriate for your needs. So when I bring in a new course, I review it again. The Health & Safety Executive recommend that to help with this, you keep a record of all the incidents that your first-aiders have dealt with. (This (having an accident book) is actually a requirement of the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 2006).
What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave a comment below.