Modern Issues of First Aid Training
Treating an injured employee is one of the most unpredictable situations and hard to prepare for, so you have to plan for the worst in most cases while watching cost where you can.
Ever been injured on the job? You leave the clean, orderly environment where things make sense and you have what you need far behind. "What is the status of first aid readiness at your facility?"
Before you answer, consider that first aid is one of the most important hidden programs you have. Completely hidden, if you so choose, this is an interlocking system that touches every inch of your facility daily. Ignored, it may coast for a few months, even a year, losing viability as it gets weaker. However, when an injury happens and the instant treatment services are needed, the looming problems emerge because you did not follow through on critical training, updates, equipment, and supplies. What are you going to do to deal with and prevent each of them?
- The paperwork. Do you have in place the policy and authority to have first aid training, services, and supplies on site? Do you keep this updated and maintained through your budget?
- Training. Have you allocated real time to training? Are your trainers certified and appropriate to the audience they will be teaching? Have you attended the classes yourself so you know the quality of the instruction? Are they in-house personnel or outside consultants? Both are good choices, depending on your budget allowances and the number of people to be trained annually.
- Trainers. First aid training often starts out with enthusiasm but then falls into disarray when the leader retires or leaves. Make sure you keep the level of expertise consistent. It matters to the program's success.
- High-tech or old school. How is training provided? Hands on? Online? CD? Lecture only? Do you test?
- Barriers. Are there any language barriers? Disabilities that need to be worked with interpreters? Are any of your employees colorblind? Make sure your supplies are clearly labeled in a color that they can read.
Timing and Content Issues
When is training provided? For new employees? Once a year? Increase it to include special needs, too. Try to avoid marathon training to get everything done at once and have smaller, more manageable sessions that employees can remember and use.
Is your first aid specifically for your workplace or general in nature? Do you have AEDs on site? Are they all compatible, maintained, and inspected regularly and easy to use?
How about remote crews: Do you offer special training and supplies for them? Do you offer chemical training if there are hazards? What about providing Epi pens and first aid supplies for exposure to critters that bite?
- Updates. Do you maintain consistent training records and keep them current? Do you pay for additional training expertise if employees wish to attend?
- Here is a tough one . . . when to back out and call for help. Floodwater exposure precautions. Ebola awareness. Special body retrieval or waste disposal instructions. Sometimes the higher local authorities need to be the lead when it is not a first aid situation, but something more.
Missing supplies—we as safety inspectors see this on routine inspections. Wall-mounted first aid boxes may have been pilfered due to employee misuse, or supplies are used for legitimate and reported on-the-job injuries and then not restocked for days, months, or ever. Remember, your facility's readiness just dropped significantly through that false sense of readiness. Open those boxes and check those dates! If you cannot or will not, use a vendor to do it for you and keep the supplies restocked.
Likewise, check for out-of-date or contaminated supplies. Do you really want to use flushing supplies for an eye injury that are five years out of date? How about adhesive bandages that are brittle, paper that has gotten damp or wet or is infested with vermin? Consider that the environment, such as high heat, swinging temperatures, or humidity, can affect these supplies. Check them often. Open a sample to ensure workability. There are few "redo's" in an emergency situation.
- Appropriate supplies for the job and hazard. Do your employees really have what they need? Forget the code for a moment . . . do what is right. If your employees are potentially exposed to severe cuts, such as from a chainsaw, is the minimum first aid kit enough in a remote location?
- Is the first aid supply or kit portable? If it is wall mounted and your victim is 200 feet away on the floor, there is a problem. Make sure the supply can be moved when needed to the injured person.
- Keeping it clean—sanitize, sanitize, sanitize! Never before have so many products been available in various forms to provide protection. Provide them and use them yourself. Your employees watch you for guidance.
Today's first aid has to be ready for issues never thought of in years gone by. The good news is the industry has kept up and adapted with an answer to every challenge of sanitation, PPE, documentation, communication, and portability required so far to meet the need. Treating an injured employee is one of the most unpredictable situations and hard to prepare for, so you have to plan for the worst in most cases while watching cost where you can. The good news is survivability has dramatically increased with fast treatment and appropriate training and team oriented attitudes.
Our role as the safety leadership is to advise and assist in prevention through errors in judgment, in the board room, the accounting room, the training room, and the shop floor. We watch, we help, and we analyze to improve service to the extent possible, being proactive while knowing every injury could be much worse. First aid is one of the best programs any site can have and should be a showcase of our safety and emergency management success. We know "bad things" will happen; our job is to lessen the damage, and we have the tools and training to do exactly that superbly.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.