First Aid at work

As in any situation, people at work can be injured on the job or take ill suddenly, so it's important that you have an action plan for your employees to receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

Whether the injury or the illness is caused by the work they do or not, the person must receive immediate attention and an ambulance should be called in serious cases.

What does the law say?

According to conditions set out in the General Safety Regulations to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993), an employer must take "all reasonable steps" to ensure that employees (and even people visiting the premises) receive prompt First Aid treatment in the case of injury or emergency. This includes the training of employees in first aid skills by a recognised training institution.

The Act requires that:

  • In order for your company to pass a Department of Labour audit, 5% of the workforce on duty at any given time must be trained in First Aid by a company that is registered with the Department
  • Teams of at least four employees must practice to work together and share the responsibility. That goes for first aid and fire-fighting, which is also an occupational safety requirement
  • First aid boxes must be provided on site, where people work away from the factory and where deliveries are made. A trained, responsible person must always have the necessary equipment at hand to be able to render an effective first aid service
  • First aid equipment and facilities must be clearly marked by signs as prescribed by law, so anyone who is unfamiliar with the business premises can easily find the first aid equipment. This includes fire extinguishers

How many first aid boxes should be provided?

The number of boxes required should be determined by the employer, taking the following into account:

  • The type of injuries that are likely to occur at a workplace
  • The nature of the activities performed and
  • The number of employees employed at such workplace

Minimum contents of a first aid box

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.

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


Remember to check that anything used in the first aid box is replaced immediately. Inspect the box regularly to make sure you haven't run out of anything, that nothing has gone past the expiry date and that the box always has the minimum contents in the list above.

You should also have a formal first aid register kept close to the first aid box, so your first aider can make a note of incidents where first aid had to be provided. A name list of the certified first aider(s) could also be kept in or near the first aid box.

Having the correct first aid and emergency procedures are not only about compliance. More importantly, you can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.


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