9 June 2009

Q. I have been told that the Health and Safety Executive requires every dental practice to appoint a first-aider. Is that correct and what happens if the first aider has time off? Is it illegal to continue working?

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require dental practices, like all business premises, to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or become ill at work. In addition there is a separate requirement in any dental setting in the UK to ensure that appropriate CPR and medical emergency training has been undertaken by all registered dental professionals as well as other practice staff. The GDC recommends that registrants should underatke training about medical emergencies every year. Click here for the GDC's guidance.

The Health and Safety Executive are guided by the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981. In order to comply with the Regulations, the practice must first be assessed as to whether it is a low, medium or high risk environment. A dental practice would probably be assessed as medium risk, bearing in mind the training associated with the roles of the employees.

The minimum first-aid provision on any work site is;
- a suitably stocked first aid box and
- an appointed person* to take charge of first-aid arrangements.

*An appointed person is someone who is chosen to;
- take charge when someone is injured or falls ill, including calling an ambulance if required.
- look after the first aid equipment, e.g. re-stocking the first-aid box

However this role is separate, and over and above, to the requirement for all the staff to participate in regular training for medical emergencies including CPR

For dental practices, assessed as medium risk and employing less than 20 persons, there should be a minimum of one appointed person. If there are more than 20 persons, or the practice is assessed as hazardous, then a first-aider ** should be appointed

**A first-aider is someone who has undergone a training course in administering first-aid at work and holds a current first aid at work certificate (further details on HSE website)
This person still needs to participate in regular training for medical emergencies including CPR

These requirements in terms of risk and numbers of employees are suggestions only and not definitive legal requirements. For further information please see the HSE website

Although it would be desirable in any event for at least one practice member to have first-aider training, but the qualified first-aider does not need to be on the premises at all times and there is no recommendation to have one for a business with less than 20 employees, in any event.

Dental Protection Limited is registered in England (No. 2374160) and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Medical Protection Society Limited (MPS) which is registered in England (No.36142). Both companies use Dental Protection as a trading name and have their registered office at 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS.

Dental Protection Limited serves and supports the dental members of MPS with access to the full range of benefits of membership, which are all discretionary, and set out in MPS’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. MPS is not an insurance company. Dental Protection® is a registered trademark of MPS.

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