It is essential that all education and products are based on the latest scientific findings regarding emergency medical care. (American Red Cross photo)

Training to Make the Workplace Safer

Preparedness is only as effective as the science behind it, so it is essential that all education and products are based on the latest scientific findings regarding emergency medical care.

An ordinary day at Food Lion's Salisbury, N.C., headquarters nearly turned tragic when an employee for the grocery chain collapsed in the parking lot near a site where the Balfour Beatty construction company was making renovations. Two Balfour Beatty supervisors, Stanley Stowe and Bobby Hunter, immediately went to the woman's aid. While Hunter directed bystanders, Stowe performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the woman for 15 minutes until emergency medical services arrived.

"I witnessed a miracle right before my eyes," Stowe said. "I watched a woman who was unresponsive and had turned blue come back to life." The two men, who had received CPR training, were nominated for an American Red Cross award for their actions in the emergency.

This incident and many others just like it serve as a reminder that businesses of all kinds should ensure that employees are prepared for a cardiac emergency in the workplace. February is designated "Heart Month" by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is an opportunity to ensure that at least 10 percent of employees are certified to perform CPR and first aid and use an automated external defibrillator, should the need arise.

A comprehensive workplace first aid/CPR/AED course, which can be taught in the workplace by certified Red Cross instructors, prepares employees to provide immediate care to an ill or injured person until the arrival of more advanced medical personnel. This course has the added benefit of teaching employees to use an AED.

In addition to training employees to recognize signs of cardiac arrest, provide CPR, and administer an AED, the program also provides comprehensive training in many workplace heath emergencies. Trainees learn to identify illness and injury, treat shock, provide first aid, and ensure that advanced medical responders are alerted quickly. In addition, optional training is available on splinting injuries, caring for an asthma attack, use of an epinephrine auto-injector in conjunction with anaphylaxis, and managing severe bleeding injuries.

The training consists of an online option that can be completed by employees at their convenience and an in-class portion provided by certified trainers in the workplace. Employees can be trained to teach the course, which allows businesses to provide their own training in-house while supported by the Red Cross standards and materials. Employees who successfully complete the training are certified in first aid/CPR/AED for two years, and those already certified are eligible for abbreviated renewal training, saving valuable time. All students are offered both printed and digital certifications, which allows businesses to quickly and conveniently check the certification status of all employees and not have to wait for them to arrive in the mail.

For businesses with employees required to be trained in the use of the AED, a complete, life-saving AED program in the workplace facility is available. It includes AED product demonstrations, on-site needs analysis, placement assistance, program implementation, and flexible AED purchase options.

For a more comprehensive test of preparedness, there is the First Aid Emergency Drill program, which uses a simulated medical emergency in the workplace to assess employee-responder performance. The program is designed to reinforce and build upon first aid/CPR/AED training, expanding employee-emergency responder skills and enhancing employee ability to perform together as a team in dynamic, real-world situations. The drill also reinforces OSHA standards and best practices, and organizations will receive a post-drill report with feedback and coaching.

Whether enabled through education, mobile apps, or workplace products, preparedness is only as effective as the science behind it, so it is essential that all are based on the latest scientific findings regarding emergency medical care. These products and education are guided by the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, a panel of more than 50 nationally recognized experts in the fields of emergency medicine, EMS, preparedness, and public health. The council ensures that all programs incorporate the latest evidence-based scientific and medical knowledge.

But it is the fusion of state-of-the-art science and training that enables employees to act when confronted with a real-time emergency. Just ask safety manager Mike Mathews of Firestone Fibers & Textile in Kings Mountain, N.C. During a lunch break one day in late 2012, Matthews was alerted that an employee was suffering from an asthma attack and seizure. He quickly gathered a team of trained staff members and went to the person’s aid.

The employee had no detectable pulse, wasn't breathing, and was turning blue. Mathews administered an AED while two other employees performed rescue breathing and CPR. A fourth person called EMS. The team, which was nominated for a Red Cross award, was able to keep the victim alive until advanced medical help arrived. Without the training and the fast action of the trained employees, the employee would not have survived, Matthews said.

Mobile Apps Emerge as Crucial for Workplace Safety
Mobile devices are a lifeline for emergency information, and mobile apps are tied with social media as the fourth most popular way to get information during emergencies--behind TV, radio, and online news sites, according to an American Red Cross survey.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans report receiving some kind of emergency information from an app they've downloaded. In many situations, apps are well suited to workplace safety, allowing instant access to safety and preparedness information whenever and wherever employees encounter an emergency.

Free and easily downloaded mobile apps applicable to the workplace include some designed for first aid emergencies and disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes. The apps offer real-time alerts as well as pre-loaded information so guidance is available even if connectivity is temporarily lost. All apps also allow employees to quickly let loved ones know they are safe and share important emergency information on their social networks. The highly successful apps have been downloaded more than 3.8 million times.

The American Red Cross First Aid App is especially useful for businesses seeking to keep their employees ready for emergencies. Among its features, the app provides users with expert step-by-step advice for common illness and injury emergencies with instructions that will guide employees through first aid scenarios. It is fully integrated with 911 so users can immediately call for emergency medical responders. The app also has an educational component, with videos and animation that encourage employees to improve and test their first aid knowledge. Employees can be incentivized to learn by earning "badges" as they master interactive quizzes, and these awards can be shared with other employees via social networks.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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