In any environment at any time, any person can fall ill or suffer an injury – including the workplaces. Regardless of whether this illness or injury comes because of the work performed, an employer is duty-bound to offer immediate and appropriate medical assistance.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) No 85 of 1993, and as amended by the OHSA No 181 of 1993 places the duty on the employer to take all reasonable and necessary steps in the circumstances to ensure that prompt first aid assistance is available in the workplace in the event of an injury or illness. “All reasonable steps” include the training and certification of employees to serve as first aid personal in the workplace.

According to the Act, where:

  • Five or more employees are employed at a workplace, a suitable first aid kit must be provided and accessible
  • Ten or more employees are employed at a workplace, at least one trained person in possession of a valid first aid certificate (issued by an organisation approved by the Department of Labour chief inspector) must be promptly available during normal working hours
  • One first aider must be appointed and available for every 50 employees, except in shops and offices, where the ratio is one first aider for every 100 employees
  • The number and availability of first aiders to readily respond to an emergency should be adjusted in the case of shift work to ensure that the minimum required presence is maintained through all shifts

The number of first aid kits required per workplace should be determined by the type of injuries that is likely to occur, the nature of the work performed and the number of employees. The contents of the first aid kit/s should also be determined based on the requirements of the injuries possible to occur as well as the specific industry regulations of the industry in which the company operates.

The OHSA (Government Notice R.2245 of 7 August 1992) lists the following minimum content of a first aid kit for the workplace:

  • Item 1 – Wound cleaner / antiseptic (100ml)
  • Item 2 – Swabs for cleaning wounds
  • Item 3 – Cotton wool for padding (100g)
  • Item 4 – Sterile gauze (minimum quantity 10)
  • Item 5 – 1 pair of forceps (for splinters)
  • Item 6 – 1 pair of scissors (minimum size 100mm)
  • Item 7 – 1 set of safety pins
  • Item 8 – 4 triangular bandages
  • Item 9 – 4 roller bandages (75mm x 5m)
  • Item 10 – 4 roller bandages (100mm x 5m)
  • Item 11 – 1 roll of elastic adhesive (25mm x 3m)
  • Item 12 – 1 Non-allergenic adhesive strip (25mm x 3m)
  • Item 13 – 1 Packet of adhesive dressing strips (minimum quantity 10 assorted sizes)
  • Item 14 – 4 First aid dressings (75mm x 100mm)
  • Item 15 – 4 First aid dressings (150mm x 200mm)
  • Item 16 – 2 Straight splints
  • Item 17 – 2 Pairs large and 2 pairs medium disposable latex gloves
  • Item 18 – 2 CPR mouth pieces or similar devices

(In the case of shops and offices, the quantities stated under items 1, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, and 18 may be reduced by half.)

Spillage kit:

  • Item 19 – An adequate supply of absorbent material for the absorption of blood and other body fluids spilled
  • Item 20 – Disinfectant to disinfect the area after cleaning up blood and other body fluids spilled
  • Item 21 – 2 Pairs large and 2 pairs medium disposable rubber household gloves
  • Item 22 – A suitable sized impervious bag for the safe disposal of blood and other body fluid contaminated biohazard materials

First aid kits should be kept near or at the worksite and be easily accessible without obstruction when an employee needs treatment and must be indicated by clear signage indicating the location as well as the name of the person responsible for the kit. First aid kits/stations may not be locked.

No scheduled medications whether oral or topical, may be kept in a first aid kit. This includes all painkillers. An employer/first aider may be held liable for any adverse effect the patient suffers due to the administration of a medication.

First aid kits should be checked at regular intervals by the responsible person to ensure that all items in the kit are within the expiration dates and fully stocked. In high risk or high use areas, this should be done monthly.

Company vehicles that is used by staff to conduct their jobs (e.g. plumbers, electricians, contractors, builders, etc.) should have a standard regulation kit in the vehicle to serve employees working on site.