When you can summon emergency help by pressing three buttons on a phone, first aid might sound like an old-fashioned idea from your childhood. In reality, first aid continues to be important on jobsites. Even though an ambulance and paramedics can likely get to your worksite in a matter of minutes, bodies can suffer a significant amount of damage in that time. Immediate first aid may be the difference between survival and serious consequences like death. It’s also the best response for injuries that aren’t quite as serious.
First aid describes any kind of emergency care for a sudden injury or illness before trained medical professionals can take over. Anyone who has received basic first aid training can deliver first aid, and OSHA requires first aid providers whenever a worksite does not offer immediate access to medical facilities. A first aid program is an important element of a comprehensive safety effort.
Have the needed supplies
Well-equipped first aid kits stocked with all of the types of supplies needed to treat normal workplace injuries and accidents should be readily available. Check kits regularly to ensure that supplies have not been depleted. Reviewing your company’s history of incidents will provide insight into whether it would be worthwhile to include other items in the kits.
Get the training
Employees who will be expected to deliver first aid must receive adequate training. In addition to addressing specific procedures, training should include instruction in determining when additional help is needed, precautions for dealing with blood-borne pathogens and other infectious materials, personal protective equipment (PPE), and legal considerations (such as Good Samaritan laws). Workers should also know how to calm an injured co-worker who is beginning to panic.
Start by assessing
Workers must be trained to assess the overall situation and condition of any injured worker. When emergency responders arrive, they don’t run or jump around. They calmly take time to develop a complete understanding of what is happening and what actions need to be taken, so they become a solution, rather than part of the problem.
In the same way, employees trained in first aid need to consider all aspects of the situation. Are there environmental issues such as dangerous fumes? Is there an energized electrical circuit? Is there a potential for injury from nearby objects? Taking a few moments to size up what’s happening allows for a more effective response. Professional help should be called in when needed. In a situation in which several workers have been injured, the responder should first tend to workers who have the greatest need for assistance.
Know the ABCs
One of the most important processes taught in first aid classes is known as the ABCs of first aid. “A” is a reminder to make sure that the person has an unobstructed airway, “B” involves checking to see if they are breathing, and “C” is a cue to check their circulation.
If the injured worker is conscious, they can answer questions to provide a better understanding of the nature of the illness or the extent of injuries. If they are unconscious, the responder should talk to them and gently shake them in an effort to awaken them. It’s important to avoid moving an injured person unless they appear to be choking or there is an immediate danger for their safety. If someone has suffered injuries to the spinal cord, movement could worsen their condition.
If the worker must be moved, align the neck and head, and carefully roll them over while supporting the head. Lifting the chin will usually open the airway. If an individual is unconscious but breathing, roll them on their side to ensure that the airway isn’t blocked by their tongue or vomit. If they’re not breathing and lack a pulse, begin CPR immediately.
When dealing with bleeding or similar injuries, if the victim is breathing and has a pulse, the responder should control the bleeding and follow steps that will prevent shock.
Once professionals arrive
The individual providing first aid should stay with the injured person until professional assistance arrives to monitor their condition, prevent against shock, and serve as a calming presence.
Once medical professionals arrive, provide a quick summary of the situation and actions that have been taken. The professionals will perform their own assessments and need to be able to do this without interruptions or questions. Trying to volunteer additional information may actually be counterproductive.
After the incident, make sure the employee who provided first aid immediately provides a detailed summary of what happened and the actions they took. That will make it easier to complete the required paperwork and provide accurate records in the event litigation occurs.
Reviewing the summary will also allow you to determine whether the actions taken by the responder were consistent with the procedures in your first aid plan. What you learn from each incident can then help you improve the response to the next one.