Cover Image
close this bookThe Organization of First Aid in the Workplace (ILO, 1999, 70 p.)
close this folder3. Responsibilities and participation
Open this folder and view contents3.1. Responsibilities of the employer
View the document3.2. Workers’ participation


First aid must be considered as part of working conditions and sound management, just as making work safe is an essential measure in this respect. The employer must be responsible for organizing first aid and ensuring that it is provided. There may, however, be special situations where other forms of organization may derive from existing patterns of the health services. Each country will have to choose the best method of defining this responsibility and of setting out specific requirements.

Experience in countries where first aid is strongly established suggests that the best way to ensure an effective system is to make it mandatory by legislation. In countries which have chosen this approach, the main requirements are set out in specific first-aid legislation or, more commonly, in national labour codes or similar regulations. In these cases, subsidiary regulations contain more detailed provisions. In most cases, the overall responsibility of the employer for providing and organizing first aid is laid down in the basic enabling legislation. Some examples of first-aid legislation are given in Annex I. Unfortunately, still today, the legal basis for organizing and providing first aid is weak in many countries. This should be corrected.

The responsibility of the employer needs definition in specific terms. Subsections 3.1.1 to 3.1.3 list the principal responsibilities which the employer is usually asked to meet (more details are contained in Chapters 4 and 5).

3.1.1. Equipment, supplies and facilities


Equipment to rescue the victim at the site of the accident so as to prevent further harm (e.g. in the case of fires, gasing, electrocution).


First-aid boxes, first-aid kits or similar containers, with a sufficient quantity of the materials and appliances required for the delivery of basic first aid.


Specialized equipment and supplies which may be required in enterprises presenting specific or unusual risks at work.


An adequately identified first-aid room or a similar facility where first aid can be administered.


Provision of means of evacuation and emergency transportation of the injured persons to the first-aid facility or the sites, where further medical care is available.


Means of giving an alarm and communicating an alert.

3.1.2. Human resources


Selection, training and retraining of suitable persons for administering first aid, their appointment and location at critical sites throughout the enterprise, and the assurance that they are permanently available and accessible.


Retraining, including practical exercises simulating emergency situations, with due account given to specific occupational hazards in the enterprise.

3.1.3. Other


Establishment of a plan, including links between the relevant health or public health services, with a view to the delivery of medical care following first aid.


Education and information of all workers concerning the prevention of accidents and injuries, and the actions workers must themselves take following an injury, e.g. an immediate shower after a chemical burn.


Information on the arrangements for first aid, and the periodic updating of this information.


Posting of information, visual guides, (e.g. posters) and instructions about first aid, and plans with a view to the delivery of medical care after first aid.

The employer must seek advice in organizing first aid, especially from the occupational health and public health services, the labour inspectorate, plant managers and relevant non-governmental organizations, as well as from the workers themselves, who in many cases can provide essential information or sound opinions on the likelihood of accidents in specific situations.

The employer should also study the potential risks to which workers are exposed and should analyse the potential for accidents as a basis for planning and organizing first aid (see Chapter 4). The employer may be required to file a specific report on the provisions made for first aid,1 or to submit to the verification of conformity with rules for first aid, although, as may be expected, the specific arrangements for this vary greatly from one country to another. The labour inspectorate is usually involved either directly or through existing institutions which may act on its behalf.

3.2. Workers’ participation

Without full participation of the workers, first aid cannot be effective. Workers’ participation can take many forms, some of which are as follows:

Workers may need to cooperate in rescue and first-aid operations, if this is demanded by rescue or first-aid personnel or by occupational safety and health staff. They should, in particular, assist in transporting victims as required. Workers do not usually consider that such participation is beyond their duty.

All workers should be informed about first-aid arrangements. The employer should organize briefings for all workers. The following are essential parts of the briefing:

- the organization of first aid in the enterprise;

- colleagues who have been appointed as first-aid personnel;

- ways in which information about an accident should be communicated, and to whom;

- location of the first-aid box;

- location of the first-aid room;

- location of the rescue equipment;

- what the workers must do in case of an accident;

- location of the escape routes;

- workers’ actions following an accident;

- ways of supporting first-aid personnel in their task.

Written instructions about first aid, preferably in the form of posters, should be displayed by the employer at strategic places within the enterprise. Workers should read these instructions carefully and seek clarification if the information provided is unclear or seemingly inadequate. They should make suggestions, based on their knowledge of the workplace, as to what additional information may usefully be communicated to all workers.

Usually many workers are willing to be trained in first aid and to be registered or appointed as first-aid personnel. However, some have reasons not to do so because of their own health, or because of emotional problems when dealing with the casualty of an accident. The employer should explain to the workers the reasons why they are being selected for first aid. Persons selected have a right to insist that, if they are appointed, the employer must do whatever necessary to protect their health and safety from any hazards to which they may be exposed as first-aid personnel under conditions of higher, unusual or special risks.2

Workers should report any accident to which they are exposed, irrespective of how serious the injury seems to be at first sight. All employees should adopt safe behaviour standards at work, and make use of the information provided to them by the employer on occupational safety and health, including first aid, with a view to contributing to the prevention of future accidents.


1 P. Barr“Le secourisme en milieu de travail”, in Cahiers de Notes Documentaires - Sritt hygi du travail (Paris), No. 96, 1979.

2 For example, guidelines for AIDS and first aid in the workplace are being prepared by the World Health Organization in cooperation with the ILO. Editor’s note: Guidelines on AIDS and first aid in the workplace, WHO AIDS Series No. 7 (Geneva, WHO, 1990) has since been published.