A first aid cabinet is one of the most common supplies for you to have on hand at your workplace, and many supplies are required by law. Rules under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration state that medical treatment for serious injuries has to be available for employees within a 3 to 4 minute response time. If your workplace is low-hazard, response times can be up to 15 minutes. If you do not have medical help that can reach your business within these time frames, first aid training and supplies must be available during all work shifts at your place of employment. Now, let’s review the Importance of Having Current First Aid Supplies as People Return to the Workplace.

The definition of first aid is:

  • Medical attention given immediately after an injury happens. This attention typically consists of:
    • A short-term, one-time treatment
    • Minimal technology
    • Minimal training
    • Cleaning of minor cuts
    • Care of minor burns
    • Apply bandages to injuries
    • The use of medications that do not require a prescription

Expired First Aid Kits When Returning to Workplace

First aid kits have materials in them that have expiration dates. If your workplace is re-opening from the COVID-19 shut-downs, your first aid kit should be checked for expired items. Items that have expired need to be disposed of and replaced as they may not be effective and if started to deteriorate, can be unsafe.

Over time your plastics will lose their adhesiveness, and if they were sterile, the pad can lose their sterility. Bandages are the same and will deteriorate as well as lose their sterility. Other items in your first aid kit, like gloves and sterile wipes, also have expiration times and need to be replaced if they have dried out or passed their expiration dates. 

How Covid-19 has Changed First Aid Requirements in the Workplace

Covid-19 changed our world and our workplace. These changes are going to affect the workplace for the foreseeable future, and have made relevant first aid training a bit more challenging. HSE (Health and Safety Regulations 1981) has not changed, but you still have to follow their guidance focusing on the importance of thorough first aid assessments. 

The biggest changes you are going to experience are your workforce and workplace circumstances. The changes will impact how you carry out your first aid assessments and how often you will need to review them. It is suggested you review your first aid needs at the same time you assess your COVID-secure risk assessment. With the drastic operational changes as a result of the pandemic, your risks could have changed to include:

  • An increase in your remote workers
  • A significant change for your work process, such as maintaining safe distances
  • Staff redundancies and furloughs, which may decrease your headcount, but place strains on other’s workloads
  • Your first-aid staff may not be on-site due to furloughs and result in inadequate coverage for first aid responses

HSE states the purpose of first aid is to prevent the worsening of a condition and preserve life. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, the guidelines still advise first aid response to assist, but at a safe distance from the casualty as much as possible. Responders should minimize the amount of time they share a breathing zone, and ask the injured to do as much as possible for you. 

The risk of COVID-19 cross-contamination occurs when there is close contact. To preserve life and minimize the worsening of a condition, CPR is often required. To reduce your risk of contamination while performing CPR, the HSE guidelines state:

  • Before you begin to administer CPR, find a towel or other cloth item to cover your patient’s mouth and nose, but still, allow enough room for them to breath
  • Use a fluid-repellent mask, eye protection, disposable gloves, and an apron
  • Deliver the CPR compressions by chest, or use a defibrillator if available 

First Aid Supplies and Assessments for Returning to Workplace

When your employees begin returning to the workplace, you will need to reassess your first aid training and your first aid kits. Not all of the products in your kit have expiration dates, but those that do may have expired while you were in shut-down. The responses expected of your first aid responders will have changed, and you may need to implement new training programs to keep both responders and other employees safe at work.