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Health and Safety: First Aid at Work

Every year, thousands of people suffer injuries at work, and many of them are treated by first aiders. They form a vital function for many businesses, particular when interacting with customers who are ill, and it's often a good idea to have someone who is first-aid trained on staff. However, for some businesses, there is no legal obligation to do so.

What Is First Aid?

First aid is given to an injured or sick person before a doctor, nurse or paramedic can attend the scene. In some cases, first aid is the only form of aid required – such as putting a plaster on a small cut or applying ice to a bruise. In other cases, it's a precursor to a major intervention, such as applying chest compressions to a patient who has collapsed and whose heart has stopped beating.

First Aid Needs Assessment

Typically, all businesses must carry out a workplace first aid needs assessment. This identifies:

  • The hazards in the workplace and the type of harm that can occur
  • The number of employees in your hotel or motel
  • The potential number of customers on premises
  • The layout of your motel or hotel
  • How quickly emergency services are likely to respond

Ideally, every accommodation business should have at least one first aider on shift at all times. Motels and hotels are considered moderate risk, as clientele are present for much longer than in a traditional business. In addition, there is always the risk of an injury as a result of an unruly guest.

Should you have a pool, the risk of injury is considerably higher. Staff may be exposed to hazardous chemicals as a result of day-to-day pool operations. As far as customers are concerned, there is a risk of drowning. Other potential hazards include loading bays and the use of heavy machinery, such as forklifts and compactors.

How Many First Aiders Do You Need?

An ideal ratio is four first-aid-trained staff for every 20 rooms. This lets you cover breaks, holidays and unexpected absences. If you're an owner-occupier, it's a good idea to get yourself first aid trained, so you know what to do should the unexpected occur.

You also need enough space to carry out first aid and potentially a room in which to treat people — particularly those who are not currently staying at the hotel or motel. You should also consider whether you're likely to have employees or customers who have reading, hearing or language difficulties. At an accommodation business, this is pretty much a given, so it's vital that you ensure all customers understand how they can contact a first aider.

First Aid Training

Training is available from a variety of sources. Course costs typically range between $130 and $300 per person, depending on what is needed. First aid certificates must be re-validated every two years. As an owner, you may wish to go for a comprehensive module that covers first aid management.

What First Aid Equipment Do You Need?

You need suitably stocked first aid kits kept in easy-to-locate areas. In motels, this often means a first aid kit at reception and kits distributed throughout the hotel in appropriate store cupboards. In many cases, you'll need a commercial premises kit, which is significantly larger than vehicle, lone worker or mobile kits.

You will also need signage. In New Zealand, this must consist of a white cross on a green background with the words "first aid" underneath.

Continuous Maintenance

First aid kits have a shelf life, as the items inside gradually lose sterility or effectiveness. Each month, you should check first aid kits as part of your due diligence to ensure that they only contain first aid items that are within date. Pain relief should not be in any first aid kit unless the person using the kit is medically qualified to dispense it. Most first aid training does not cover this.


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