Everything you need to know about a workplace first aid kit

An essential part of every workplace

Everything you need to know about a workplace first aid kit
Owning a kit is the minimum – workers should be trained in first aid too.

When you think of health and safety, a first aid kit is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. Even the smallest workplaces require some kind of kit – though specificities will depend on each province’s OHS legislation.

In 2017, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) issued an update to the standard Z1220 First Aid Kits for the Workplace. Since then, provinces have slowly been implementing the changes – most recently Quebec on March 17, 2021.

Why is a first aid kit important in workplace

A first aid kit – and more broadly a first aid station – is important in the workplace because it is an essential part of any kind of emergency response. While it cannot replace a trip to the doctor or to the hospital, having a properly stocked and accessible first aid kit can make the difference between life and death – or at the very least help to mitigate workplace injuries. And aside from being a legal requirement in most workplaces, in also provides assurance to employees that some kind of response is in place in case of danger.

The size and contents of a kit can vary – as can what a first aid station actually looks like.

Not every workplace requires a specific first aid room. This will depend on provincial legislation as well as number of employees per shift. For example, in Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) says that under Regulation 1101, a first aid room is required for any workplace where 200 or more workers are employed per shift.

Make sure that your employees know how to do first aid

A first aid kit really is no good if no one on-site actually knows how to use it.

More broadly, employees should be provided at the very least basic first aid training. And as with kits, there are legal requirements here too – depending on each province. This may change soon with upcoming CSA governance that will help homogenize first aid training standards across Canada.

For the time being, it is essential to know who in the workplace is required to do first aid training. This can depend on the size of the company and the nature of the organization’s activities.

“Every workplace has its inherent set of hazards,” said Don Marentette, National Manager of First Aid Programs, Canadian Red Cross, to COS recently.

In Ontario for example, specific courses are outlined by the WSIB and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

The WSIB says that all businesses covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act are required to have first aid equipment, facilities and trained personnel in all workplaces. In addition, there are different sets of courses for the workplace, including Emergency First Aid Level A and Level C, and Standard First Aid Level A and C.

“First aid training should be part of the organization’s safety plan and/or part of their training plan. As far as the emergency response plan, a first aid drill should be performed from time to time, similar to a fire drill,” says Chris Schmied, Manager of Learning, St. John Ambulance.

Kinds of workplace first aid kits

The aforementioned CSA Standard says that there are three different types of first aid kits: personal, basic and intermediate. A personal kit is for workplaces in which there is one employee (or work in isolation). The other two kits are determined by the number of workers per shift.

For example, workplaces in which there are two to 25 workers per shift would require one small basic kit and one small intermediate kit.

Very basically, first aid kits should essentially be supplied with: gauze pads and bandages, blankets, latex gloves, adhesive tape, wound-cleaning agent, elastic wraps, antiseptic wipes or soap, and a thermometer. Certain workplaces may require other, more specific, items depending on the inherent hazards of that particular setting.

In addition, the larger the workplace is, the more quantities you will need (a small office with five people will most likely require fewer gauze pads and bandages for example). Ultimately though, it is better to overestimate rather than underestimate and be caught short in an emergency situation.

Lastly, owning a first aid kit is the minimum – it should be checked regularly and re-stocked if necessary, and most importantly employees should understand how to use it and be comfortable and confident administering first aid if necessary.