Medical Emergencies on the Job: Is Your First Aid Kit Adequate?

On average, several million workers get hurt each year on the job and a significant number sustain severe or critical injuries. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 more than half of the 3.3 million reported injuries were of a more serious nature, resulting in days away from work, job transfers or restricted duties.

Under OSHA, employers have must provide appropriate, prompt medical attention to injured or seriously ill workers until professional help is available. Like other workplace safety and health programs, employers should factor in unique conditions of the working environment when developing a first aid program and purchasing supplies.

Before an emergency presents itself, take time to review your first aid kit and make sure it meets the following criteria:

Sufficient Medical Supplies For Known Hazards:

According to OSHA, employers are “required to provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.”  Regular reviews of your 300 Logs can help determine if your supplies match the injuries that have transpired on the job. For example, if your workers have previously sustained cuts or burns, make sure you have sufficient quantities of antiseptic, burn spray and bandages.

Appropriate Materials for Potential Hazards

Become familiar with injuries and accidents that have occurred in your industry, as well as your company.  The potential for similar incidents in your workplace may exist and you should plan first aid supplies accordingly. In some industries (such as construction) falling objects and slips, trips and falls are known hazards. For injuries caused by these job-related dangers, an ample supply of cold packs and wound dressing is necessary to attend to victims who have sustained sprains, contusions, abrasions and concussions.

Also consider possible hazards and injuries related to non-routine job duties, like seasonal or annual maintenance work. When performing atypical jobs, workers may have unusual exposure to heat, chemicals, flying objects or insect bites, which may necessitate additional first aid supplies.

While evaluating non-routine work, employers should also review personal protective equipment and additional employee training to prevent injuries. Often accidents that occur during seasonal work are due to lack of preparedness and poorly outfitted workers.  Consider foot, hand, head and eye protection carefully.

Anticipates True Medical Emergencies

In addition to site specific, job duty and industry-wide hazards, some medical incidents are universal. Strokes, heat stress, sudden cardiac arrest or life threatening allergic reactions are emergencies that can transpire in any workplace.  While you can’t plan for every incident, try to evaluate known hazards and possible medical emergencies when considering appropriate supplies. A well-equipped first aid kit includes CPR masks, bloodborne pathogen supplies, dressings and splints for serious wounds and blankets for shock victims.

Most employers find buying a comprehensive, pre-assembled kit is far easier than creating one from scratch.  One rule of thumb regarding this to keep in mindAlways select a first aid kit better than you think you’ll need for the situation.

An excellent choice for general industry is the Deluxe First Aid Kit, which stocks waterless hand cleaner, a foil rescue blanket and a CPR protective device, plus an assortment of ointments and sprays for burn and wound care, as well as a variety of bandages, dressings and splints.

OSHA requires medical supplies must be “readily accessible” to all employees. This means you’ll also need to consider where to place the kit. If you have several shifts, make sure the first aid supplies aren’t locked in an office at night or positioned in a distant spot, far from easy and quick employee access.

Of course, the kit represents only a portion of the first aid program.  To function adequately, the first aid team should be trained to provide suitable medical care and your workplace should have designated emergency response and reporting mechanisms in place.




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