In First Aid Teams, emergency preparedness expert witness Michael J. Ryan, principal at First Aid Depot, asks the question, “Does your organization need a First Aid Team?”
When you look at the issue of a First Aid Team some thoughts come to mind. One thought is the first aid kit hanging on the wall somewhere, usually only opened for an occasional cold tablet, aspirin or band-aid or maybe you can recall a time when the local fire department or ambulance corps responded to your 911 call. Aren’t these things good enough for most work place emergencies?
Several issues should be considered when you establish a First Aid Team. Is the first aid kit properly stocked for your unique work place emergencies? What would happen if the responding 911 responders were delayed; is it appropriate to transport the patient by private vehicle, etc.? Even in ideal conditions the period of time in which you wait for police and/or an ambulance may be life threatening if the victim doesn’t receive oxygen or other life sustaining interventions such as CPR/AED. The issue of first aid training gained more exposure on December 6, 1991 when OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandated certain types of training to comply with Blood Bourne Pathogen issues in the work place. Additionally, OSHA requires that associates working in certain environments have the ability to be resuscitated in the event of life threatening work place emergencies.
To properly answer the question “does my organization need a first aid team” a review of your organization is necessary. First, assess the actual number of associates in the building and how many are on each shift. If your organization operates in multi-locations or multi-buildings that must also be considered; ideally, all facilities should be trained. Second, human resources should be consulted; they may be able to provide information on the potential sudden illnesses that may be encountered based either on past history or the associates’ medical history, assuming it was shared by the employee. Third, closely review the work place process. If your organization is a manufacturing facility, what types of injuries have occurred in the past and what may occur? Maybe your organization is a packager or distributor; are there dangerous moving equipment hazards? And lastly, most service industries are probably free of hazards, but not the potential for sudden illnesses.
If you determine that your organization can benefit by having several associates trained in emergency first aid procedures to provide prompt treatment the employer must decide what kind of training is necessary. You’ll want to ensure that there is at least one first aider to every 10 associates. This ratio allows for vacation schedules, sick time, etc. while still maintaining proper coverage. Usually, the first aid team is comprised of people interested in assisting in an emergency. These first aiders need to recognize that they will be expected to assist another associate in the event of a work place emergency and the consequences if they do not assist. Certain work place environments will dictate what type of training is necessary. For example, where there may be bleeding, fractures, or sudden illness a First Aid course is needed. If your environment includes the possibility for heart attacks, choking, or breathing problems a CPR/AED course is needed. Any full-service training agency should have a compliment of programs to fit most needs. Typically your organization will dictate the type of training required and the training agency will develop an appropriate training program to comply.
Mr. Ryan‘s areas of expertise include citizen responders who provide First Aid, CPR and Automated External Defribrillation (AED) treatment; employer responsibility in the work place as it relates to emergency care/preparedness and EMS issues with respect to pre-hospital emergency medicine.