You won’t get a second chance to give First Aid, so get a proper First Aid cabinet

Choosing the correct medicine cabinet or first aid storage is a vital part of having the right equipment in the right condition immediately to hand when you need it. We explain why that’s important, and help with the choice of the right medical storage cabinets for your application.

Without the right equipment, qualified first aiders are like a fish trying to climb a tree – they haven’t got a leg to stand on. And whilst I’d agree that’s an awful pun, there’s a great deal of truth behind it.

Someone’s been hurt; perhaps it’s a bad cut and bleeding profusely. The first aider will know exactly what to do, but without the right equipment won’t be able to do it safely and effectively. That’s when a drama is in danger of turning into a crisis.

There isn’t the slightest doubt that every workplace must have secure First Aid storage with the right supplies for use in medical emergencies. After that basic truth, things get to be a little less clear cut.

What to put in First Aid cabinets

Let’s start what needs to be in a kit. There is a British Standard covering the contents – BS8599 – but the list it gives is by no means exclusive. The Health and Safety Executive is at pains to point out that what’s in your trusty First Aid wall cabinet needs to reflect the activities going on near it.

With lots of hazardous liquids about, an eye wash station might be appropriate; in a busy kitchen there might be a need for more equipment for burns and cuts.

The contents of a First Aid box are helpfully listed here by the HSE, along with a great deal of other helpful advice for appropriate First Aid storage.

How to choose First Aid or medicine cabinets

First Aid CabinetsFirst Aid storage and medicine cabinets are not the same thing. Certainly there is common ground, but there are clear distinctions too. Both have a treatment role, but drugs have no place in First Aid, and it may well be that there is no need for sticking plasters in medicine cabinets.

Medicine cabinets are not as numerous as First Aid ones, and are more likely to be found in health centres or surgeries operated by doctors and vets. Medical cabinets, on the other hand, could contain both kinds of supplies.

The right medical cabinet or first aid cabinet will be chosen from a range offering the best protection for its contents. Far better to have a piece of equipment made for the job, rather than have important equipment pushed to the back of a desk drawer or kept on an open shelf in a dirty environment, where it can be stolen, lost or become contaminated.

At a glance features guide to medication cabinets

The things to look out for in the best medical cabinets are:

• Conforms to H&S Regulations 1981
• Appropriate size for the contents you plan to house
• Durable construction, preferably of steel
• Antibacterial factory finish
• Integral drip tray to catch spills
• Flexible internal shelf arrangement to suit your contents
• Ability to add extra shelves
• Effective lock

If your need is for a small amount of first aid equipment, then a wall mounted First Aid cabinet will probably suit your needs, securely fixed in an appropriate place. Freestanding models are naturally also available.

And finally, the contents of medication cabinets are potentially dangerous in untrained hands. Provision of the right kind of training is at least as important as provision of the right equipment!

View our range of medical storage cabinets here.

Medical storage – Safe Storage of Drugs and medicines

Outside of hospitals and pharmacies there are many other organisations that by design or default have the need to store controlled drugs (or CD’s) and prescription only medicines for dispense and use to patients and residents. These include care homes, residential hostels for the homeless, sheltered housing, dentists, mental health and drug rehab clinics to name but a few.

In relation to the safe storage of controlled drugs the primary piece of legislation to consider is the Misuse of Drugs (Safe Custody) Regulations 1974 although the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the
Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, the Medicines Act 1968 and the Care Standards Act 2000 and not least BS2881:1989 all need to be taken into account. Conforming to the regulations is legally binding on bodies authorised by the regulations to store and supply controlled drugs and prescription medicines.

A section of the Safe Custody regulations gives detailed requirements for the construction of drug storage cabinets, safes and medical cabinets to minimise the risk of unauthorised access and outright robbery. When choosing a storage cabinet look for the manufacturers assurance that the type and method of construction meets or exceeds the required standard under the law.

Burton Governor Drugs CabinetAs a start CD Safes and cabinets should be made of pressed and welded steel sheet or mesh in a steel frame not less than 5mm section thickness. An effective lock is of course critical and must have
at least 5 differing levers or, in the case of a pin and tumbler mechanisms on safes, have at least 6 pins. Locks should also have at least 1000 independent key-differs. Larger cabinets must have at least two locks and espagnolette bolt door retainers . Other required features include anti jemmy door reveals and predrilled bolt down holes for fixing to wall and or floor.

You cannot comply with the regulations with makeshift compromises for example using a lockable cash box, general purpose cash safe or using a cupboard in a cupboard. Full details on the provisions required for the construction of CD safes and medical cabinets under the legislation can be found on the government website:

Controlled Drugs in the cupboard

Over time it is amazing how much clutter you can accumulate. Stuff you will never use or need is salted away in the back of cupboards or in the loft because it’s perceived as too good to throw away or may come in handy one day. We decided to have a sort out and one of the first things we tackled was the medicine cabinet. To be exact this was not a purpose made medical storage cabinet but a wall kitchen cabinet requisitioned for the job.

We consider ourselves quite sprightly for our age but you would not think so from the pile of boxes and bottles of half used drugs (prescription drugs I might add!!) cramming the shelves. Some were unopened as either they were not ultimately required or were over prescribed. I stuffed the lot into a plastic bag and I took them down to the local pharmacy which is what you should do. In talking to the pharmacist I discovered that none of the medicines, not even those in sealed blister packs could be recycled. The law is that they must be destroyed which seems such a waste in these times of austerity. There must be millions if not billions of pounds worth of unused medicines out there.

Burton Medical CabinetsAs she was sorting through the hoard she came upon half a box of a controlled drug. “Ahh” she said. “Did you know this is a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act?” She hastily added that as it was legally prescribed I would not be raided by the Drugs Squad any time soon. Even so she locked it away in a heftily made floor standing safe pending disposal.

I looked into this later and The Misuse of Drugs Regulations divides Controlled Drugs (CDs) into five schedules corresponding to their therapeutic usefulness and potential for misuse. Licensed pharmacies, primary care hospitals, residential nursing homes and GP’s must ensure CDs are securely stored in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs (Safe Custody) Regulations. This requires that all Schedule 2 and some Schedule 3 CDs should be stored securely in a purpose-built lockable metal drugs cabinet or a similarly secure safe that is fixed to a wall or the floor with internal rag bolts. Apparently not even GP’s or pharmacists can store Schedule 1 controlled drugs which include so called recreational drugs like cannabis.

Approved Controlled Drugs cabinets like the Burton Governor CD Safes and the Burton range of Medical Cabinets meet or exceed the requirement of this legislation and comply with BS 2281. In addition the majority of our Cash Safes also meet the requirements although as with CD cabinets they must be solely used for this purpose so you can’t mix in with cash and valuables.