Every day, workers face a variety of job-related hazards. Even with all the precautionary measures in-place to prevent accidents, you have to accept the fact that they do happen. Your company’s ability to respond properly in a medical emergency situation can make all the difference.
By definition, first aid is the emergency care that is provided to an individual immediately after they have been injured. The main purpose of first aid is to minimize injury and future disability, and in serious cases, keep victims alive until medical assistance arrives. Statistics show that the odds of someone dying or suffering greater damage through injury, is drastically reduced with every person on your job site who knows first aid. In life and death situations, time, training and equipment are critical.
Providing adequate first aid training and equipment is not just a good idea - it’s the law. Occupational Health & Safety Act regulations offer very specific, and mandatory, details on what needs to be provided in the workplace in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Depending on your jurisdiction, the requirements may outline:
- Needs for the number of first aid attendants
- Levels of training or certification required
- Type and amount of first aid supplies and facilities
- Location of kits & notices
- Emergency transportation
- Accident reporting
Since legislation varies by jurisdiction, contact your local governmental agency for exact requirements. A listing of federal and provincial contacts can be found at:
Risk Assessment & Planning
Once you have determined what first aid requirements are necessary for your region, you can then go about the task of assessing the real safety risks for your own workplace and making a well-defined plan to offset them. Normally, a company Health & Safety Committee is responsible for liaising with outside agencies, conducting the internal assessment, planning, reporting and then maintaining whatever system you have in-place. Ideally your committee should be comprised of select executives, supervisors and front-line workers that represent the full scope of your operation.
Some items to consider may include:
- In addition to assessing the risk posed by the normal day-to-day job functions of workers, be sure to consider any other hazard that could result from specific one-off functions or facility maintenance
- Account and make provisions for employees with disabilities or other special needs
- Be aware of language considerations when communicating procedures, training and posting signs in the workplace
- Be sure to make allowances for any employees who work alone
- Establish well-defined rules and protocol for emergency medical situations and clearly communicate these to all employees – not just those who are designated as your first responders
- Put a clear plan into place for the sequence of communications in the event of a medical emergency, both internally and externally
- Have a accurate understanding of what medical services are available in the area
- Depending on staff numbers and the nature of the work you do, ensure that you have the right number of first aid attendants, that they are scheduled appropriately per shift, and that they have the proper training/certifications necessary
- Many companies also include CPR and cardiac defibrillator training as part of their medical preparedness protocol. For training and certification in these areas (in addition to regular first aid response), engage a reputable organization such the Red Cross or St. John’s Ambulance for approved courses
- Be sure that your jobsite is well marked and that there is adequate access for emergency responders and their vehicles
- Ensure that there is appropriate company or employee transportation available to safely move injured workers to medical treatment facilities (on or off site), especially in remote areas or job sites with rough terrain
- Account for the use of chemicals that require specific treatment steps, eyewash stations, showers or antidotes
- Establish and maintain a reporting and record keeping system that complies with local Occupational Health & Safety regulations
First Aid Equipment & Supplies
For workplace applications, it isn’t good enough to simply pick up a first aid kit at your local supply store and hope for the best. These items are closely regulated as to the type, amount and how you need to maintain them.
- Be sure to comply with regional regulations regarding the types and number of first aid kits that are necessary for your business. For a complete overview go to: http://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/3-2-2-1-1_OHS_FAKits_Nov2008EN.pdf
- The location of first aid or medical emergency stations within your workplace will be determined by potential hazard, the number of employees, and the layout of the facility or site. Note that medical supplies should never be more than 2 minutes from the location of any work area.
- The locations of all first aid and medical response equipment must be fully accessible, clearly communicated to all employees and marked with prominent signage
Aside from prepared first aid kits, your particular workplace may also require additional equipment. Depending on the potential hazards, this could include:
- Eye wash stations
- Chemical showers
- Back boards / neck braces
- Cots / blankets
- Cardiac defibrillation equipment
- Oxygen tanks & related gear
- Beyond the contents of first aid kits and the other equipment you keep available, legislation may also provide additional requirements for its maintenance. This normally includes re-stocking after items have been used, the regular monitoring of expiration dates and keeping all materials, clean, dry and in good repair.
Remember that there’s no time to waste in a medical emergency. Equipping employees with the first aid materials and training they need to respond properly, may well lessen the severity of an injury or save a life.