First Aid Every Worker Should Know

by Safety Management Group

In an age of sophisticated technology and immediate emergency response by pressing three buttons on any phone, first aid may sound like a quaint concept from your days in Scouting. But it’s every bit as important today as it was back then. Even if a paramedic-equipped ambulance can be at your jobsite in five minutes, a lot can happen to a human body in that time. First aid can keep a bad situation from getting worse, and it provides fast solutions to situations that aren’t all that bad.

In simple terms, first aid is any kind of emergency care in response to a sudden injury or illness before trained medical professionals can take over. It can be delivered by anyone who has received basic first aid training, and OSHA standards require first-aid providers whenever a worksite does not offer immediate access to an infirmary, clinic, or hospital. Beyond the requirements, a first aid program is an important component in a comprehensive safety effort.

Supplies are important

Most types of first aid require some type of supplies or equipment, ranging from gauze pads to an automated external defibrillator (AED). First-aid kits should be readily available, and should be stocked with all of the types of supplies needed to treat normal workplace injuries and accidents. Kits should be checked regularly to ensure that supplies have not been depleted. In addition, employers should review their history of incidents to see whether it would be worthwhile to include additional specific items in the kits.

Training is critical

Even the best first-aid kit isn’t very useful if workers do not know how to make use of its contents. That’s why it’s important to ensure that employees who will be expected to deliver first aid receive adequate training.

In addition to training for specific first-aid procedures, from treating injuries to performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), that should include instruction in determining when additional help is needed and knowing how to obtain it, precautions for blood-borne pathogens and other infectious materials, personal protective equipment to use when delivering first aid, and legal considerations (such as Good Samaritan laws). It’s also useful for employees who will have these responsibilities to know how to calm an injured co-worker who is beginning to panic.

Assessing the situation

A key component of training is to ensure that the employee understands how to assess the overall situation and condition of any injured worker or workers. Professional emergency responders don’t run when they arrive on the scene. They take their time to develop a complete understanding of what is happening and what actions need to be taken, so they become a solution to the problem, rather than part of it.

Similarly, the first thing a responding employee needs to do is consider all aspects of the situation. Are there environmental dangers such as fumes that could overcome other employees? Is there an energized electrical circuit? Is there a potential for injury from sharp objects? Taking a few moments to size up what’s happening will allow for the most effective response possible. When appropriate, professional help should be called in — typically, that involves a call to 911. In a situation in which several workers have been injured, the responder should determine which workers have the greatest need for assistance, and tend to them first.

Remembering the ABCs

Next, the responder needs to consider the condition of the injured or ill worker. One of the most basic processes taught in first aid classes is the ABCs of first aid. A refers to making sure that the person has an unobstructed airway, B involves checking to see if he or she is breathing, and C is a reminder to check circulation at one of the major pulse points.

If the individual is conscious, the responder can ask questions to get a better understanding of the nature of the illness or the extent of any injuries. If he or she is not conscious, the responder should talk to them and gently shake them in an effort to awaken them. However, it’s important to avoid moving a victim unless there is an immediate danger for their safety, or if they appear to be choking. If the individual has suffered any injuries to the spinal cord, movement could worsen his or her condition.

If the person must be moved to restore breathing, it’s important to 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 still breathing, it’s usually a good idea to roll them on their side to ensure that the airway isn’t blocked by their tongue or vomit. If the individual is not breathing and does not have a pulse, begin CPR immediately.

When dealing with bleeding or similar injuries, if the victim is breathing and has a pulse, the responder should begin to control the bleeding and follow steps that will prevent shock.

When professionals arrive

It’s important for the responder to stay with the individual until professional assistance arrives. In addition to monitoring his or her condition, that includes being a calming presence and continuing to prevent against shock.

Once the medical professionals are on the scene, the responder can provide a quick summary of the situation and actions that have been taken. At the point, it’s best to stop talking and wait to answer any questions from the professionals. Based on what they’ve been told, they will perform their own assessments, and they need to be able to concentrate on the details. While the natural tendency is to be helpful and volunteer additional information, that may actually be counterproductive.

After the incident has been completed, make sure the responder immediately provides a detailed summary of exactly what happen and what actions were taken. That will make it easier to complete the required paperwork and provide accurate records in the event that litigation occurs.

In addition, reviewing the summary will 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.

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