One reason to work
as hard as we do on safety and health is to get to zero accidents and eliminate
the need to provide emergency injury care. However, even with an exceptional
program, people still have need for emergency medical assistance. They may suffer
an illness while at work. A pre-existing condition may result in additional trauma.
An automobile accident may occur on the road in front of the plant or a natural
disaster may cause injury to people.
In fact, the ability
to assist people in need of medical attention is an important human consideration.
The National Safety Council tells us that over 92 thousand people die from unintentional
injuries annually and over 18 million suffer disabling injuries with a total
cost to the economy exceeding $440 billion. Only a small percentage of these
figures are a direct result of workplace injuries; but nearly all impact workers
and their families in some way.
It is sometimes
suggested that people should not get involved in assisting injured people. You'll
do more damage, or you'll get sued. While that is a possibility,
getting involved typically reduces severity and cuts costs and lost time significantly.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that proper treatment at the time
of an injury reduces further damage, prevents infection, avoids complications
and has a significant positive psychological impact on the injured individual
and on co-workers.
In a study of safety
showers and emergency eye washes, it was found that rapid flushing at a properly
designed and full-flowing emergency shower or eye station could often make the
difference between major chemical burns and no apparent injury at all. To reap
these benefits, however, the injured individual had to get immediately into
the water stream and get totally drenched with a good flow of cool or cold water.
Nearby hoses, personal showers, and squeeze bottles did not have the same positive
In Canada, initiatives
by St. John's Ambulance where all members of the community received first aid
training interspersed with safety information resulted in dramatic reductions
in injury frequency within the community. First aid knowledge, and the ability
to use it, proved to have the side benefit of being an effective safety program.
As you might guess,
provisions for competent medical aid are more than just good business. OSHA
requires planning and effective performance in this area. If an infirmary, clinic,
or hospital is not close by, then at least one of your people on each shift
of work should be trained and competent to render first aid. Training in any
certified community program is acceptable. As a general rule, OSHA looks for
competence in CPR as well as the treatment of trauma injuries and such things
as electrical shock. In many cases employers find that an employee is trained
as an emergency medical technician or volunteer firefighter/first responder
and that he/she will be happy to use their skills at the workplace.
The courts have
ruled on some aspects of OSHA's first aid requirements. For example, the requirement
that there be a clinic, infirmary, or hospital in "near proximity" has been
interpreted to include a response by a competent emergency assistance. However,
whether the person is taken to aid, or aid comes to the person, the courts have
held that a response time of three to four minutes is necessary for suffocation,
severe bleeding, or other life-threatening injury or illness. Where the injury
is not life threatening, a fifteen minute response time is acceptable.
OSHA also requires
that first aid supplies be sanitary and readily available for use by the trained
personnel. If your people are working with chemicals or the potential for burns
exists, then safety showers and eye baths are required near the areas of potential
exposure. Everyone in the work area should be trained to use, or assist with,
the emergency shower or eye bath. They should also be aware of the need for
periodic testing of the equipment and the need to maintain clear access.