SafeWork NSW has made recent amendments to its First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice (‘the Code’).

As an approved code of practice under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW), the Code can assist Schools to achieve compliance with their health and safety and duty of care obligations with respect to first aid. Under WHS legislation, schools have a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers, as well as others in the workplace, including students and visitors. Regulators and courts may look to the Code in assessing what is ‘reasonably practicable’ in the circumstances, underlining the importance of understanding how the Code applies to your school.

The duty to provide first aid

A School has a duty to provide first aid, which includes providing access to first aid equipment, facilities, and trained first aiders. As part of determining first aid requirements for your school, all relevant matters must be considered. The Code sets out that this includes:

  • The nature of the work being carried out
  • The nature of the hazards at the workplace
  • The size and location of the workplace
  • The number and composition of the workers, as well as others at the workplace, including students and members of the public

This is covered in further detail at Part 2 of the Code, ‘How to determine first aid requirements for your workplace’.  

What are the changes?

Updated guidance on selecting first aid courses

The key recent amendments to the Code are set out at Part 3.5, ‘First Aiders’. A School has a duty to ensure that an adequate number of staff are trained in the workplace to administer first aid, and that all staff have access to those trained first aiders.

Effective from January 2020, in addition to the minimum requirement that first aiders hold a nationally recognised first aid accreditation (of competency Provide First Aid), the Code now also states that a higher level of accreditation or other additional training may be required to ensure first aiders have appropriate skills for the risks that have been identified in your specific workplace.

Relevant to schools, the Code sets out that additional training may be required where:

  • Children are present
  • Work is remote or isolated (for example, where you have reduced numbers of staff attending the school campus during COVID-19)
  • There is specialist first aid equipment or a first aid room in the workplace
  • Psychological risks have been identified
  • Workers have existing medical conditions which may require first aid
  • There are risks from dangerous substances (such as cyanide or arsenic) – this will include, for example, substances that may be used in a science laboratory

Where workers or students have known medical conditions, schools must ensure that first aiders are specifically trained to respond to these conditions.

Contents for first-aid kits

Other changes to the Code took place in August 2019 adding to the contents set out in the Code’s example workplace first aid kit at Appendix C. It has been added to the Code that workplaces may consider including in its first aid kit an asthma-relieving inhaler and a spacer to treat asthma attacks, and an epinephrine auto-injector for the treatment of anaphylaxis or severe allergies, noting these should be stored according to the manufacturers’ instructions and first aiders should be provided with appropriate training to administer these if required. As a school it is strongly advised that your first aid kits carry these items.

What else should schools be aware of?

Schools should ensure they are familiar with all contents of the Code. However, aside from the changes mentioned above, schools are also mentioned on a few other occasions throughout the Code. This is:

  • again in Part 3.5, where the Code emphasises the need to consider whether as a school you may need greater numbers of first aiders, given that there are large numbers of students, parents, and visitors at the school on a regular basis; and

  • in Part 3.1, where location and quick access to the first aid kit is discussed. The Code states that first aid kids should be located close to areas that have a higher risk of injury or illness, noting that a school with a science laboratory or carpentry workshop should have first aid kits located in these areas.

The SafeWork NSW First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice can be accessed by clicking here.

For further guidance on your Work Health & Safety obligations, please contact the Workplace Management team on (02) 9299 2945.