Why is there a need to regulate first-aid treatments in the workplace?
The workplace can be a busy setting. Depending on the industry, the safety risks associated with a workplace can range from minor cuts and bruises to major emergencies and life-threatening accidents. In any case, first-aid treatments are crucial in preventing the condition from worsening or saving one’s life. This is especially true for work settings that are with high hazard risk. Regulation of occupational first-aid treatments ensures that patients receive the proper and necessary treatment that is imposed by the medical health boards and regulatory units. In Singapore, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act took effect and replaced the Factories Act on March 1, 2006.
What is covered by the Workplace Safety and Health (First-Aid) Regulations?
The Regulations Act applies in the following workplace settings.
- Any establishment or site that is a factory Any establishment or site within an airport where checking, inspection, cleaning, loading, and unloading, or refueling of a plane or aircraft is done by an individual that is not a part of the aircraft crew
- Any ship docked in the harbor where the following activities take place:
- Scaling or cleaning of boilers, combustion chambers, and smoke boxes
- Cleaning of ship’s tanks, bilges, or holes
- Construction, repairs, fitting, or furnishing in the ship
- Any laboratory or site where testing and examination of an item or unit takes place
What responsibilities do the employer or the administrative officer of the workplace hold?
As an employer or administrative officer, you must see to it that you have prepared the following in your workplace.
- A well-stocked and properly-maintained first-aid box or bag
- An appointed and well-trained first-aid responder
- A designated and well-maintained first-aid room or space
- A designated easy-to-reach facility for quick water access in instances that require flushing of the eyes or any body part that has been in contact with corrosive substances
What considerations should the employer include when it comes to carrying out the Regulations Act?
Several factors must be considered by the employer when it comes to carrying out their responsibilities in compliance with the Regulations Act. These include:
- The nature and type of industry the business operates under
- Specific work hazards related to the business industry
- The total number of employees
- The number of work shifts
- The physical layout of the workplace
- Location of the workplace, as well as proximity to hospitals and medical clinics
- Holiday work
- Proper designation when first-aid responders are on sick leave
Furthermore, the administrative officer of the workplace must inspect and review the first-aid facilities in the workplace regularly to ensure that everything is in proper and working condition.
Supplying and Maintaining the First-Aid Box
Here is a quick guide on how to build and complete the first-aid box.
What should be inside the first-aid box? How should it be maintained?
The first-aid box should contain a set of supplies and items that can be used as quick treatment under emergencies.
The Contents of the First-Aid Box
Every first-aid box in the workplace should contain the following items:
|Contents||Box A (for every 25 persons employed or less)||Box B (for every 50 persons employed or less)||Box C (for every 100 persons employed or less)|
|Sterile adhesive dressings, individually wrapped||20||40||40|
|A roll of 5-cm crepe bandage||1||2||4|
|A roll of 10-cm crepe bandage||1||3||6|
|Packets of absorbent gauze||5||10||15|
|Packets of disposable gloves in pairs||2||2||4|
|One-way resuscitation mask||1||1||2|
|100-ml sterile water or saline solution in disposable containers, when tap water is not available||1||3||3|
Other items and supplies may be needed for workplaces operating under special industries.
Maintaining the first-aid box requires routine inspection of its contents. Each box must be fully equipped with items that are functional and in good condition. Expired or used items must be replaced immediately to ensure the effectiveness of the first-aid treatment.
The Required Number of First-Aid Boxes
The number of first-aid boxes needed by a company must correspond to the number of employees as well as the physical layout of the office, with consideration in the number of floors in the building for larger companies. Typically, there should be at least one first-aid box per floor.
What should be the ratio of employees to the first-aid boxes?
The number of contents each box should hold must take into consideration the number of employees. This is why first-aid boxes are classified as Box A, Box B, and Box C according to the quantity of the contents inside. The box is A is for less than 25 employees, Box B is for every 50 employees, Box C is for every 100 employees.
Ease of Access on the First-Aid Boxes
Access to these first-aid boxes must not be restricted or obstructed in any way, due to the nature of their use.
Each first-aid box must be sturdy but lightweight so that it can be easily carried. It must also have clear labels so that people can quickly identify it.
The contents of the box must also be labeled properly. The first-aid box must be placed in a dry and well-lit location. Ensure also that the location has the ideal temperature.
For large offices and spaces, make sure that the first-aid boxes are distributed efficiently so that employees can easily reach them when the need arises. Advise the employees of the location of these first-aid boxes.
Allocating and Maintaining the First-Aid Room
What is a first-aid room? How should it be maintained?
A first-aid room is required by the Regulations Act for companies with over 500 employees.
How should the first-aid room be designed?
The first-aid room must be spacious. It should contain a couch but should have enough space for people to move.
The room must have sufficient lighting and ventilation. Emergency lights must also be installed in the room for use in case of power outages.
A sign must also be installed to identify the room.
What should be the facilities inside the first-aid room?
According to the Regulations Act, the first-aid room must have the following facilities:
- First-aid box
- A sink with running potable water
- Disposable paper towels
- Working surfaces that have a smooth top or finish
- Cabinets for file-keeping
- Enough supply of sterile dressings and other items that are necessary for treating wounds
- Clinical thermometer
- Clean pillows and blankets
- Proper storage areas for first-aid equipment like stretchers and wheelchairs
- Nail brush
- Clean garments and protective clothing for use by first-aid responders
- Appropriate waste containers with disposable lining and proper labels
- Stackable chairs for patients who are awaiting treatment
Where should the first-aid room be located?
The first-aid room must be conveniently located near the following areas:
- Lifts and main hallways that allow stretchers and wheelchairs for easy pass-through
- Work areas
- Parking areas for easy transfer of injured people from wheelchair to ambulance
Dealing with Toxic Substances in the Workplace
What first-aid facilities are required in workplaces where toxic or corrosive substances are being used?
For workplaces that handle or use toxic chemicals or corrosive substances, it is required by the Commissioner of Workplace Safety and Health to provide proper facilities for immediate treatment. These facilities include emergency showers for quick soaking as well as eyewash or sinks for flushing the eyes.
Facilities like these should be installed in areas that offer quick access within the work area and must be properly maintained so that when emergencies come, these can be used without further trouble.
Other Special Instructions
For chemicals that are not commonly used, specified instructions on how to handle emergency cases involving these chemicals must be provided on Safety Data Sheets (SDS). This presents an easy reference for first-aid responders in times of emergency.
Antidotes for highly toxic chemicals like amyl nitrate for cyanide poisoning should be available. Instructions on how to administer the antidote must also be provided.
The SDS copies must be attached near the location of the first-aid boxes for quick reference.
Appointing First-Aid Responders
The number of employees in the workplace should determine how many first-aid responders should be assigned.
The Ideal Ratio of First-Aid Responders to the Number of Employees
This table demonstrates how many first-aid responders should be available per certain number of employees.
Type of Workplace
No. of Employees
No. of First-Aid Responders
Construction sites, woodworking factories, shipyards, petroleum refineries, mining quarries
More than 100
1 for every 100 persons or less
Other factories and workplaces covered by the Regulations Act
More than 150
1 for every 150 persons or less
Working in Shifts
For workplaces that employ a shifting work schedule, there should be enough first-aid responders to attend to the number of employees working on that particular shift.
Availability of First-Aid Responders
To be able to easily identify the first-aid responders, their names and designated locations must be displayed in the workplace’s notice or announcement board.
What responsibilities do the first-aider have?
Overall, a first-aid responder covers 3 major responsibilities.
1. Management of Casualty
A first-aid responder must have extensive knowledge of various and specific workplace hazards. These include corrosive substances, hazardous goods and items, heavy machinery, and other equipment. Furthermore, they should be able to administer first-aid care in these specific situations.
The first-aid responder must follow these steps when it comes to handling an injured employee.
- Analyse the situation carefully, taking safety measures not to endanger his/her self.
- Locate and identify the injuries.
- Provide immediate first-aid treatment and assistance. If there are several injured patients, prioritise those with more serious injuries.
- Organise quickly the transfer of the injured employee(s) to a doctor, hospital, or home, considering the severity of their condition
- Provide information to the attending physician about the incident, the nature of the injuries, as well as the first-aid treatment that has been given to the patient.
Once the injured employee or casualty has been placed under the care of a doctor or nurse, the responsibility of the first-aid responder ends.
2. Maintenance of Treatment Record
A first-aid responder must take down notes or keep a record of the kind of treatment that has been given to an injured patient. This record must be placed in a file-keeping cabinet.
3. Maintenance of First-Aid Facilities
The first-aid responder is also tasked with inspecting and maintaining the contents of the first-aid box. A routine check must be carried out by the first-aid responder. This ensures that the first-aid box is well-stocked with supplies that are in good condition for use.
How should the employees be informed of the first-aid’s availability?
The location of the first-aid facilities must be known to the employees. Knowing their way towards the facility helps in reaching it quicker when an emergency occurs.
Informing the employees about the availability of the first-aid facilities should be done on the onboarding or initial training stage of the employee. All employees must be informed about the first-aid requirements at the site.
Training of First-Aid Responders
Because of the nature of their work, first-aid responders must undergo regular training to make sure that their knowledge about giving first-aid treatment is up to date.
What are the qualities and training required for a person selected to be a first-aider?
An individual must possess certain qualities and must pass training requirements to become a designated first-aid responder.
Selection for Training
Certain traits qualify an individual as a first-aid responder. An employer must look for these traits.
- Level headed and responsible
- Able to maintain a calm composure in an emergency
- Able to leave work to respond to emergency calls
- Physically fit and able to move with precision
The employer must keep a record of the first-aid responders’ information, such as dates when they received certifications and training.
Accredited Training Providers
A qualified first-aid training provider must have completed an occupational first-aid course that is accredited by the Ministry of Manpower.
Validity Period of Certificates
Each first-aid certificate is valid for 3 years. A refresher course must be taken by the first-aid responder to receive a newly-issued certificate.
What is the status of persons appointed or documents obtained before March 1, 2006, when the Workplace Safety and Health Act is implemented?
All persons appointed, as well as all documents, certificates, and permits issued and approved under the Factories Act are still valid under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act during the transition period.