This page has been updated according to the new First aid in the workplace compliance code, issued in November 2021.

Under the Victorian OHS Act, 2004, the employer has a legal duty to:

‘provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the control and management of the employer’ (Section 21[2][d])’


What does this mean in terms of first aid?

There is nothing specified in legislation (ie either the Act or the regulations) regarding what first aid facilities an employer must provide. However, there is guidance to be found in the Compliance Code for First aid in the workplace. This Code has been substantially rewritten to the point that WorkSafe has decided that it is Edition 1, November 2021. 

The Code, just as the previous one did, provides two options on how to comply:

  • Option 1: the Prescribed approach – with detailed guidance on how to comply with the Act, including the number of first aid officers, their duties and training; the number of first aid kits and their contents; and the number of first aid rooms and their requirements. It is suggested that this might be the approach for small to medium-sized workplaces.  “This approach provides a simple means of achieving compliance. However, if an employer chooses to follow option 1, they need to do everything recommended in the prescribed approach.”
  • Option 2: the Risk Assessment approach – this is a more flexible approach, and involves assessing the workplace and the hazards to make appropriate decisions about what first aid requirements are needed.

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Consultation

The Code reminds employers that:

By law, so far as is reasonably practicable, employers must consult with health and safety representatives and employees on a range of matters that directly affect (or are likely to directly affect) their health and safety. Consultation related to this code would include:

  • consultation on first aid needs
  • consultation on first aid training
  • consultation on changes to any procedures related to first aid

Information, instruction, training and supervision for all employees

The Code sets out what general information, instruction and training employers must provide in terms of first aid to employees and independent contractors. This includes:

  • the location and type of first aid kits
  • the names and work locations of trained first aid officers 
  • procedures to be followed when first aid or further assistance is required

Training should be practical and ‘hands on’. The structure, content and delivery of the training needs to take into account any special needs of the employees and independent contractors. and employers need to review their training program regularly, and when there are changes to first aid arrangements.

There are also specific training requirements for first aid officers.

Option 1 – Prescribed approach

Employers who follow the guidance provided in this section will be considered to have complied with their duties under the Act. The section starts with advice on what employers need to consider when determining the number of employees at a workplace.

Table 1 provides a list of  common workplace hazards and associated illnesses and injuries which may require first aid. 

This is then followed by a discussion of ‘low-risk’ and ‘higher risk’ workplaces, depending on the types of injuries or illnesses that are likely to occur. There is a new category in the latest Code: ‘Low-risk micro-businesses’. 

Low-risk (eg offices, libraries, most retail shops):

  • no exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness (as described below) requiring immediate medical attention
  • the workplace is located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available  

Higher risk (eg manufacturing plants, commercial kitchens, meatworks, motor vehicle/panel repair workshops, prisons, forestry operations):

  • potential exposure to hazards that could result in a serious injury/illness requiring immediate medical attention. Examples include amputation of any part of the body; serious head or eye injury; de-gloving; electric shock; spinal injury; loss of a bodily function; serious lacerations and/or
  • the workplace is not located where medical assistance/ambulance services are readily available (ie an isolated or remote location)

NOTE: In situations where a workplace includes low-risk working areas as well as higher risk areas (for example a workplace with an administrative office plus a workshop), employers need to apply the prescribed approach for the higher risk workplaces

Low-risk micro-businesses: are those which meet the criteria of a low-risk workplace, but has fewer than 10 employees. Such a business will be considered to comply by providing a basic first aid kit (as set out in paragraphs 121-124 of the Code).

First aid officers

Where possible, employers need to ensure there is at least one first aid officer available at any one time. When planning, employers need to take into account coverage during different shifts, leave and flexible work arrangements.

Low-risk workplaces:

  • one for 10 – 50 workers
  • two for 51 – 100 workers
  • one additional for every additional 100 workers

Higher risk workplaces:

  • one for up to 25 workers
  • two for 26 to 50 workers
  • one additional for every additional 50 workers

First aid training

  • Minimum: a nationally recognised statement of attainment issued by a registered training organisation (RTO) for the nationally endorsed first aid unit of competency Provide First Aid, or a course providing equivalent skills. 
  • For higher risk workplaces, there may be a need for first aid officers who have completed Provide Advanced First Aid or a course providing equivalent skills. 
  • Employers need to assess whether they need to provide additional training where there are particular workplace hazards or needs (eg where work is remote or isolated; risks from hazardous substances; or more – p10)
  • if a workplace is large or has a complex range of OHS hazards, then the employer needs to choose Option 2 (Risk assessment approach) to determine the appropriate level of first aid training based on a risk assessment. 
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current and updated regularly. Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be carried out annually, and first aid qualifications should be renewed every 3 years. 
  • to locate suitable first aid courses or RTOs, go to training.gov.au

Immunisation for first aid officers

New advice: where there is a risk of vaccine-preventable disease, first aid officers need to be offered vaccinations in line with the Department of Health Australian immunisation handbook.

First aid kits

Location and quantity

  • Low risk workplaces:
    – one kit for 10 to 50 employees
    – one additional kit for every additional 50 employees up to 200
    – after 200, one additional kit for every addition 100 employees
  • Higher risk workplaces:
    – one kit, including specific first aid modules, for up to 25 employees
    – two kits, including specific modules, for up to 50 employees
    – one additional kit, including specific modules, for every additional 50 employees
  • For isolated or remote locations or mobile workplaces, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide adequate facilities by ensuring employees have access to appropriate first aid kits. 
  • Kits need to be clearly identified and easily accessible.
  • Where there are separate work areas, it may be appropriate to locate first aid facilities centrally, and provide portable kits in each work area. This may include motor vehicles.

The Container needs to be 

  • suitable for the environment to keep the contents clean, dry, organised and free from damage
  • large enough to hold any additional first aid kit modules that are to be included, preferably in separate compartments
  • easily recognisable (eg with a white cross on a green background and clearly marked as ‘First aid kit’)

The name and telephone number of workplace first aid officers, as well as emergency services telephone numbers and addresses, should be located in or near each first aid kit – which should not be locked.

Contents of kit 

What is appropriate will vary according to the workplace. Employers need to ensure that kits are adequately stocked for their workplace. A basic kit needs to include (this list is different from that in the previous Code):

  • first aid instructions/quick reference guide 
  • notebook and pen/pencil
  • disposable surgical face masks  (4)
  • resuscitation mask or face shield with one-way valve
  • disposable nitrile gloves – latex free (5 pairs in various sizes)
  • 3-pack gauze swabs 10 x 10 cm (5 packs)  
  • Saline 14 ml (8) or 30ml (4)
  • adhesive dressing strips – plastic/fabric (packet of 50)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 5x5cm, small (6)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 7.5×7.5cm, medium (3)
  • non-adherent wound dressing/pad 10x10cm, large (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, light, 5 cm width (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, light, 7.5 cm width (3)
  • Conforming crepe bandage, 10 cm width 
  • scissors
  • adhesive tape, non-stretch, hypoallergenic, 2.5 cm wide roll
  • dressing – combine pad 9 x 20 cm (2)
  • resealable bag – large (2)
  • triangular bandage minimum width 100x155cm (2)
  • eye pads, single use (2)
  • instant cold pack for treatment of soft tissue injuries and some stings 
  • alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • emergency accident blanket

Employers needs to assess whether additional first aid kit modules are required where particular hazards exist. Common examples: modules dealing with eyes, burns and remote workplaces. (See paragraphs 125 – 136 for more on Additional first aid kit modules)

Employers need to ensure that the kits are restocked as necessary, and should have a system for reviewing and restocking kits. 

The use of single-use items should be encouraged. 

Can or should medications be included in First Aid Kits?

The Code advises the following in paragraphs 138 – 141)- this is new advice:

Employers should consider including:

  • an asthma-relieving inhaler and a spacer to treat asthma attacks
  • an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector (EpiPen) for the treatment of anaphylaxis 
  • 300 mg of dissolvable aspirin for the treatment of chest pain, to be administered on the instruction of Ambulance Victoria or a registered health professional
  • if considered necessary, mild analgesics, such as paracetamol or similar which are available for unrestricted purchase, can be included 

First aid officers are people who undertake the initial treatment of people suffering injury or illness at work. The are not expected to know employees’ medical conditions. 

First aid rooms

Whether a first aid room is needed will depend on the type of workplace. The Code states that compliance is achieved by providing a first aid room in:

  • low-risk workplaces with more than 200 employees
  • higher risk workplaces with more than 100 employees

Room requirements:

The room needs to be

  • available for first aid as its primary purpose
  • large enough for its purpose
  • well-lit and well-ventilated
  • easily accessible by injured people who may need to be supported or moved by stretcher or wheelchair, and needs to have easy access to toilets
  • have additional first aid kit modules and items or equipment as required 
  • be under the control of a first aid officer with the appropriate skills and knowledge. 

The following items need to be provided in the room:

  • resuscitation face mask/shield
  • disposable surgical masks
  • sink and washbasin with hot and cold water or hand sanitiser with paper towels
  • work bench or dressing trolley
  • storage facilities
  • hazardous waste container or bio-hazard bag for soiled dressings
  • a sharps container
  • electric power points
  • an examination couch with a waterproof surface and disposable sheets
  • a desk, chair and telephone
  • signage indicating emergency telephone numbers
  • signage indicating emergency first aid procedures
  • a first aid kit or contents appropriate for the workplace 

Access to medical services and the nature and extent of those services   

There may be a need in higher-risk workplaces to ensure the services of an appropriate medical centre – to provide emergency medical treatment appropriate to the risks – are available (either on-site or readily available off-site).

Other first aid equipment 

In this small section, employers are advised:

  • they should consider whether it is reasonably practicable to have an automated external defibrillator in the workplace as these are not difficult to use and save lives – more information at paragraphs 149-152
  • they need to provide emergency eye-wash equipment –  more information at paragraphs 153-156.

Signage

The employer need to provide safety signs to identify first aid facilities, including emergency telephone numbers, names of first aid officers, etc. The signs should be a white cross on a green background. (For more guidance, see AS 1319 Safety signs for the occupational environment).

First aid procedures

This section is new (Nov 2021)

Employers need to develop and implement procedures to ensure employees have a clear understanding of first aid arrangements in the workplace, and need to include (para 74):

  • types and locations of first aid kits
  • location of first aid facilities (eg first aid rooms)
  • first aid kit contents and review dates
  • and more 

Reviewing first aid arrangements

Employers need to review arrangements regularly to ensure they are still adequate for the risk level and number of employees at the workplace. The code lists what such a review should include.

Table 2 has a summary of numbers of first aid officers, kits and rooms

Appendix B is a checklist employers can use to record how they have applied the prescribed approach. 

Option 2: Risk assessment approach

Establishing first aid requirements

In consultation with affected employees and their health and safety reps, employers need to:

  • identify hazards that could result in work-related injury or illness
  • assess the likelihood and severity (the risk)
  • determine and provide the appropriate first aid facilities and training, taking into account the nature of the workplace 
  • review the requirements on a regular basis or as circumstances change

As part of this systematic approach, employers need to take account of the following factors:

The nature of the hazards and severity of the risks

Certain work environments have greater risks due to the nature of the work, and this is an important factor in determining first aid requirements. Where a workplace stores/uses highly toxic or corrosive chemicals, additional first aid facilities need to be provided (particularly if specified in the SDS). Facilities may need to include emergency showers and eyewash stations (see paragraphs 153-156), and where applicable, poison antidotes. 

Known occurrences of injuries, illnesses and incidents

Injury, illness and ‘near miss’ incident data should be reviewed to help identify problem areas, but not be relied on as it covers past occurrences, not potential injuries and illnesses. The code advises that specialist practitioners, industry reps, unions and government as potential sources of assistance and information.

Table 3 provides a list of  common workplace hazards and associated illnesses and injuries which may require first aid. 

Size and layout of workplace  

The employer needs to take these things into account:

  • the nature of the work being performed in different work areas
  • the distance an injured or sick person would have to be transported to receive first aid
  • the level of first aid available throughout the workplace

First aid facilities need to be located at convenient points and in areas where there is significant risk. Larger workplaces may require first aid facilities in more than one location.

The number of employees and the way work is done 

The employer needs to take account of the following:

  • separate areas of work (separate buildings, or floors) – it may be appropriate to have central first aid facilities and first aid kits in each area
  • employees working away from the employer’s premises – whether they work alone or in groups; their access to telephone/emergency radio communications; the nature of the work
  • work occurring over more than one shift – ensuring availability of first aid facilities
  • environments where ‘others’ are present (for example volunteers, residents, prisoners, students, members of the public) additional facilities may be required

Location of the workplace

The employer needs to consider:

  • the distance to ambulance services, hospital and medical/occupational health centres
  • in the case of possible life-threatening injuries and timely access to emergency services cannot be assured, whether a first aid officer trained in more advanced techniques or using the services of a registered health professional is needed
  • factors influencing time it may take for medical aid to reach person – eg poor roads, adverse weather – and whether facilities for aerial evacuation need to be included in planning first aid facilities, as well as ensuring efficient communication systems appropriate to the workplace. These may include mobile or satellite phones, radios or global positioning systems (GPS). 
  • provision of portable first aid kits, including specialised kit modules, for employees working in remote locations

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First aid risk assessment process

  • Step 1 – Identify potential causes of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 2 – Assess the risk of workplace injury and illness
  • Step 3 – What first aid facilities are required to meet the assessed needs?
  • Periodic review of assessment.

On page 25 of the Code there is a diagram which goes through the risk assessment process. 

Recording the first aid assessment

The employer should record the assessment and its outcomes, as this ‘may be beneficial when reviewing first aid facilities and training needs’. Appendix C of the code provides an example of a first aid assessment.

First Aid Officers

  • must have appropriate training
  • skills and knowledge necessary will vary with each type of workplace, as will the number required
  • first aid officers need to have access to appropriate first aid kits and where appropriate, first aid rooms and occupational health centres

Records

The employer needs to ensure that a record of any first aid treatment given is kept by the first aid officer and reported to managers on a regular basis to assist the employer when reviewing risk assessment procedures. These records are subject to the requirements of the Health Records Act 2001 . WorkSafe has previously advised that the records should include:

  • workers name and occupation or job title
  • time and date of injury
  • location at the time of injury
  • description of how the injury was received
  • nature of injury and bodily part/s affected
  • witnesses
  • nature of first aid treatment given
  • name of person making the entry in the records
  • date of entry in register

There is no set period of time for keeping records. It is recommended that first aid records be kept for the life of the worker.

Immunisation for first aid officers

New advice: where there is a risk of vaccine-preventable disease, first aid officers need to be offered vaccinations in line with the Department of Health Australian immunisation handbook.

First aid training

  • Minimum: a nationally recognised statement of attainment issued by a registered training organisation (RTO) for the nationally endorsed first aid unit of competency Provide First Aid, or a course providing equivalent skills. 
  • For larger or higher risk workplaces, there may be a need for first aid officers who have completed Provide Advanced First Aid or a course providing equivalent skills. 
  • Employers need to assess whether they need to provide additional training where there are particular workplace hazards or needs (eg where work is remote or isolated; risks from hazardous substances; or more – paragraph 100)
  • if a workplace is large or has a complex range of OHS hazards, then the employer needs to choose Option 2 (Risk assessment approach) to determine the appropriate level of first aid training based on a risk assessment. 
  • Employers need to ensure qualifications are current and updated regularly. Training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be carried out annually, and first aid qualifications should be renewed every 3 years. 
  • to locate suitable first aid courses or RTOs, go to training.gov.au

First Aid Kits

Location and quantity

Appropriate first aid facilities will vary according to the workplace – the employer must have regard to factors such as nature of hazards and severity of risks, incidents, etc (paragraphs 78-92) when deciding on the appropriate number of first aid kits and where to place them. They must be clearly identifiable, easily accessible and employees need to be advised of their location.

The Container – as per Option One, see above, under Option One

Contents – basic kit and advice, as per Option One

Additional first aid kit modules

The employer needs to assess whether additional modules (eg for eyes, burns and remote workplaces) are required where particular hazards exist. Advice is provided in paragraphs 125-136 of the Code.

First Aid rooms and medical services  

Employers need to determine whether a first aid room is needed having regard to the outcome of the risk assessment. 

Room requirements; Contents and advice on AEDs and eye-was equipment, and signage as per Option One. 

Registered health professionals and access to medical services (paragraphs 111-114)

  • The Code advises that in higher risk workplaces employers need to make arrangements for the provision of appropriate emergency health services by a registered health professional (in addition to access to Ambulance Victoria or a hospital emergency department).
  • In some workplaces (like a large mine site), an on-site occupational health centre for the initial treatment of injuries/illness may be most appropriate, and if so the employer should engage  suitably qualified health professionals (eg registered nurse or medical practitioner)
  • Alternatively, arrangements need to be in place to make sure the services of an appropriate medical centre external to the workplace are available.The medical centre needs to provide emergency treatment and preferably have an understanding of the types of hazards at the workplace and their potential effects on the health of employees.
  • Employers need to consider developing an emergency management plan in conjunction with the external medical centre. 

  Compliance Code for First Aid in the workplace 

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More information

Last amended June 2022

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