When considering Health and Safety in the workplace, it won’t be long before we are considering our First Aid provision and First Aid kits, and what’s in them.
“Does our First Aid box meet HSE guidelines?”
The HSE guidelines state that all businesses need to have First Aid provision, but that the contents of the First Aid box simply have to be appropriate for the business. The HSE help by giving guidance on what should be in the box, and that help can be found HERE. It’s only guidance, you have to do that First Aid Needs Assessment and decide on what contents you require to meet your needs.
Remember that items in a first aid kit do have an expiry date. Adhesive plasters will deteriorate with time and won’t stick. Dressings can deteriorate with time and simply disintegrate.
Sterile dressings should packaged with an expiry date clearly visible. If the packaging is found to be damaged, don’t use it. If the expiry date has passed, don’t use it.
The First Aid box must contain protective gloves in various sizes. If any blood or body fluids are involved in your incident then a pair of thin nitrile gloves can protect you from the risk of cross contamination. If the gloves tear, try the next size up.
Because you will be within 2m of the patient, for a period of time, you now need to consider the risk of cross-infection from Covid19 or any of it’s variants. The First Aid box needs to have at least two face coverings in it, one to protect you, and one to protect the patient.
A minor wound that has visible dirt in it has a high risk of infection. Clean tap water is satisfactory for cleaning wounds but I prefer having pods of sterile water, just in case I’m nowhere near to any tap water. Once consent has been given by the patient, clean the minor wound with water and gauze swabs, inspect it to make sure you can’t see bone, or underlying structures and then apply a dressing.
Sterile water can also be used for minor eye problems such as dust that has been blown in. A 20ml saline pod of sterile water can help flush the dust away. Some workplaces may have carried out their First Aid Needs Assessment and decided that they require specialised ‘Eye Stations’.
These can be used in conjunction with the pods of sterile water to help clean a wound.
Microporous tape is an adhesive tape. The pores in the tape allow gases to pass through but not bacteria. It’s much kinder to the skin than electrical tape and allows the area to breathe. It’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much space. It is versatile in that it can secure small pads to the skin, or help secure a sling made from a triangular bandage. Never apply adhesive tape or adhesive dressings to burned skin.
These may seem like an extravagant use of space and weight. I carry scissors in my first aid kit in case I need to cut any clothing. The flange on the tip prevents an accidental stab injury to the patient!
Plasters. I like the butterfly shape plaster because the wings of the plaster provide great adhesion. They are really good for covering knuckles that have got bashed up but can be also used on any small wound.
Yes, these can be used to make an arm or an elevation splint. I also like to use them in conjunction with the ice pack/frozen bag of peas/etc. to provide a barrier between the skin and the cold pack
A roller bandage can be used to provide support to a limb that has sustained a soft tissue injury. It could also be used to hold another item in place such as a heat pack/cold pack/ or even a splint.
Warning: A roller bandage that is applied too tightly round a limb can cut off the blood supply below where it’s applied. The danger and consequences can’t be over-estimated, so if ever you apply a dressing or bandage that goes around a limb, check the circulation at regular 10 minute intervals. This is most easily done by examining the nailbed of the fingers or toes. They shouldn’t turn blue! If you squeeze the blood out of the nailbed by applying a constant pressure for 5 seconds. When you release the pressure, the colour should come back within 2 seconds. This is a great little test at room temperature, but when people have cold extremities or have hypothermia, it will take longer, therefore use roller bandages with great care.
These are like a roller bandage with a sterile pad that’s none adhesive. They come in various sizes. When applied correctly they help to stop bleeding, protect the wound from infection, and help the healing process. 10 minutes of direct pressure should stop most simple bleeds. If a wound has occurred to the scalp, simply hold the sterile pad firmly against the cut for 10 minutes and then reassess. In this circumstance, do not attempt to tie the bandage off under the chin.
Tweezers don’t take up much space or weight but can be useful for removing ticks or removing splinters, and a host of other minor fiddly jobs.
Ommissions – what you shouldn’t find in the First Aid box!
Butterfly stitches. If a wound is deep enough to require stitching then this will need treating at hospital or a Minor Injuries Unit. The health care professionals can do the professional cleaning and stitching. The best first aid treatment is to gain consent, put on gloves, clean the wound to the best of your ability, and apply a simple dressing. If a wound is closed with butterfly stitches, it can start to knit together and heal, but if it’s not been cleaned thoroughly, the butterfly stitches could be sealing in an infection…and that’s going to get messy, painful and potentially very dangerous.
Medications. No medications should be kept in the First Aid box. By all means take your own medications with you to work, but keep them on you, or somewhere safe, but not in the First Aid box.
Thank you for reading and stay safe.