What should be in a first aid kit at work?

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The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 state that all UK employers must provide the facilities and equipment needed to keep employees safe. This includes providing a suitably stocked first aid box. But what exactly needs to be included as part of this emergency kit?

These kits need to contain items that allow people to provide immediate basic first aid assistance should an employee become injured or fall ill. Ideally, they also need to be paired with trained first aiders who are covered by first aid insurance. However, while workplace first aid boxes are recommended, there are not clear legal regulations as to what a first aid kit should contain. For this reason, it can be difficult for employers to decide exactly what to include and in what quantities.

In this article, we provide key guidance on what your business may want to include in its first aid kit. This will cover a list of basics, as well as any additional items that are good to have close at hand in an emergency situation. Finally, this handy guide will also explain how often workplace first aid kits need replacing.

What do you need in a first aid kit?

It is of course essential to take steps to minimise workplace risks. However, no matter how careful you are, accidents may still happen. For this reason, ensuring your first aid kit is correctly stocked is essential. The below items are the basic contents of a workplace first aid kit.  We have also provided brief explanations of what they are and when to use them.

Protective items

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential part of any first aid kit. From dressing open wounds to treating colleagues with infectious illnesses, a first aider must have equipment that protects their own health before they can help to treat someone else.

Protective items should include:

  • Disposable gloves - these should be latex-free and should be worn when treating someone with open wounds. They should also be worn when any other bodily fluid is present or if you are handling any waste materials.

  • Face protection - this can either be a plastic face shield or pocket mask. These can protect you from cross infection when giving rescue breaths. Regular three-ply surgical masks should also be included. These can be used when treating someone with a potentially infectious illness. 

Sterile wound dressings

This should include both dressing pads and adhesive dressings/plasters. Small adhesive dressings and plasters are ideal for small cuts, grazes and blisters. Larger pad dressings should be included for use on more serious lacerations and other skin wounds. Unlike small adhesive dressings that may fully treat small wounds, pad dressings may be used as a temporary treatment until professional medical attention can be given.

Types of dressings that should be included:

  • sterile wound dressing (this can be cut to size)
  • sterile eye pads
  • fabric plasters
  • waterproof plasters
  • clear plasters
  • blue catering plasters (if your business deals with food preparation)
  • gel blister plasters (for blisters/small burns)


A range of bandages should be included in a basic first aid kit. These include:

  • Roller bandages - these are used to prevent and reduce swelling, secure dressings in place and maintain pressure on bleeding wounds.
  • Tubular bandages - these are primarily used to secure dressings on toes and fingers. Applied using a special applicator, these elasticated bandages can also be used on damaged joints.
  • Triangle bandages - these are designed to be folded to make slings for wrist, shoulder and arm injuries. They are also large enough to be used as temporary dressings for larger wounds and burns.

Miscellaneous essentials

  • Gauze - thin fabric with a loose open weave. This can be used to clean around wounds and hold dressings in place.
  • Antiseptic wipes - used to clean the skin around open wounds.
  • Adhesive medical tape - used to provide further support for dressings.
  • Safety clips - used to fasten the loose ends of bandages and hold slings in place.
  • Scissors - used to cut tape and bandages to size. They may also be needed to cut items of clothing if you need to get closer to a wound.
  • Tweezers - used to remove splinters or other debris from a wound.
  • Thermometer - used to measure body temperature and check for fever.
  • Over the counter (OTC) painkillers - this can include paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Antihistamine cream/tablets - used to treat minor allergic reactions.
  • Aluminium blanket - used to help individuals retain body heat.

How often should first aid kits be replaced?

As a rule, items in first aid kits should be replaced every three to five years. This is because common items found inside these kits become less effective over time and have expiry dates. Even if items, such as antiseptic wipes or gauze, are still sealed, they may be ineffective if they have expired. For this reason, it’s important that a workplace’s first aid kit is reviewed on a regular basis. This should be done at least annually. During this check, missing items can be replenished and out-of-date items can be replaced.

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