In this article, we are going to look at first aid in the workplace. Generally, activities, where there are risks to life, property or the environment, an accepted code of practice, will be established. This code of practice, for first aid, is classified under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act.
Codes of practices are a good spot to start for any person that has been given responsibility for first aid in the workplace. Such responsibilities have many requirements and a code of practice will provide guidance to help you keep safe and limit liability for action you may take.
When workplace emergencies end up in the court it is likely that legal council may use specific codes. As evidence, in terms of acceptable workplace outcomes for different activities.
First aid responsibilities are going to be always about providing immediate care to other persons who may be affected by some type of adverse health outcome. Sometimes first aid care can be the difference between a colleague surviving and not surviving. It is such an important function and that is why first aid in the workplace has become so well regulated.
What is required in providing first aid?
Every workplace is different and this complexity requires a risk management approach to identify a first aid objective and subsequent strategies for a specific working environment. There may be specific hazards that only a risk management approach will identify.
To effectively plan for medical emergencies the risk management approach should include the following:
- To identify hazards that could cause harm or injury to a worker.
- Assessing the type and severity of potential injuries. For example, an industrial workshop is going to pose a greater risk than an office block.
- Identify adequate first aid equipment for the expected risk and include the appropriate level of training to deal with the worst-case scenario.
- A program for reviewing the plan regularly or if a risk happens to change due to new equipment etc.
Consulting and empowering workers.
An employer has a duty to consult workers in relation to the risk and potential health hazards they might face at a place of business. Such an approach empowers employees and generally has a positive impact on decision making relating to the provision of first aid in the workplace.
The consultation will include discussions on the location and content of first aid kits and other equipment including the types of facilities that may be needed and the types of necessary procedures.
Determining the location of first aid kits.
After completing a risk assessment it will be much easier to identify suitable locations for first aid kits. Every worker should have quick access to such kits. This includes those workers that operate in a mobile environment away from the premises. For example taxis couriers and the like.
It is the risk that will determine the location and how many first aid kits are required. I.e. where eye injuries have a high potential of occurring there may be an increased number of eye pads and eye irrigation items in a kit.
Here is an example of the standard contents of a first aid kit in the workplace:
Directly from First aid in the workplace – code of practice
1 x Instruction guide for providing first aid—including CPR chart
1 x Notebook and pen
1 x Resuscitation face mask or face shield
5 x Disposable nitrile examination gloves
5 x Gauze pieces 7.5 x 7.5 cm, sterile 3 per pack
8 x Saline, 15 ml
10 x Wound cleaning wipe, single 1% Cetrimide BP
1 x Adhesive dressing strips—plastic or fabric, a packet of 50
10 x Splinter probes, single-use, disposable
1 x Tweezers/forceps
1x Antiseptic liquid/spray 50 ml
6 x Non-adherent wound dressing/pad 5 x 5 cm (small)
3 x Non-adherent wound dressing/pad 7.5 x 10 cm (medium)
1 x Non-adherent wound dressing/pad 10 x 10 cm (large)
3 x Conforming cotton bandage, 5 cm width 3
3 x Conforming cotton bandage, 7.5 cm width
1 x Crepe Bandage, 10 cm, for serious bleeding and pressure application
1 x Scissors
1 x Non-stretch, hypoallergenic adhesive tape—2.5 cm wide roll
1 x Safety pins, a packet of 6
1 x BPC wound dressings No. 14, medium
1 x BPC wound dressings No. 15, large
1 x Dressing—Combine Pad 9 x 20 cm
1 x Plastic bags—clip seal
2 x Triangular bandage, minimum width 90 cm
1 x Emergency rescue blanket for shock or hypothermia
4 x Eye pad, single-use
1 x Access to 20 minutes of clean running water or, if this is not available, hydrogel
5 x 3.5 gm sachets 5 sachets
1 x Instant ice pack for treatment of soft tissue injuries and some stings
The First Aider and a duty to provide first aid
We have discussed a number of critical aspects of first aid. Now let’s look at some of the options that may assist a business owner to provide the required skills. All in an acceptable and safe manner according to risk.
Many businesses operate around or near other businesses. So for the average workplace, there is the potential for business owners to work together and share trained first aiders. Again, a risk assessment will determine the quantity and first aid skills required. The First aid code of practice suggests that one first aider is required for every 50 workers.
There are minimum standards for first aid training that must be followed to remain accredited. Firstly, the competency and certificate of attainment must be issued by a registered training organisation (R.T.O.). A CPR update should be completed every year and reaccreditation every three years.
Emergency planning in the workplace
Every workplace or facility is required to have an emergency plan as per Australian Standard 3745-2010 and the relevant health and safety legislation. Those designated as initial responders, sometimes called emergency wardens, are tasked with helping to provide life safety for workers during emergencies. This also includes the first aider.
These responders will provide assistance to those that require help to evacuate. Even so, it is important that they are provided with guidance via an emergency plan. Such guidance should indicate that emergency wardens and first aiders must not operate outside their level of training.
A debriefing and maintaining of records is an important function of the initial responders. Furthermore, first aiders must keep first aid treatment records and report to management on a regular basis. This reporting must be done with consideration given in line with health records & privacy legislation.
Providing information to workers
Business owners must provide relevant first aid information to workers. The information should include any relevant information required to protect the worker’s health and safety whilst at work. Such information may include but isn’t limited to:
- The location of equipment and first aid facilities in the place of work
- Names, location and contact details of workers who are qualified first aiders
- Procedures to follow when first aid is required to be administered.
A good place to start with supplying information is when a worker starts employment. Generally during induction programs where emergency procedures are explained and emphasised.
Updating first aid information
There should be a procedure and outline of how often a first-aid procedure review is required. A review may occur after a medical emergency to update procedures where required.
There are some important questions that should be asked during any review and they are as follows:
- Do all workers have adequate access to first aiders and first aid kits?
- Are more than the current level of first aid kits required?
- Do we have enough trained first aiders?
- Do workers have access to first aiders at all times?
- Do the first aid kits in our workplace mitigate the identified risks?
- Are first aid kits well maintained and well signposted?
- Is our business large enough to require a first aid room or health centre?
- Are first aid facilities well maintained?
- Do first aiders have skills, training and competencies to provide first aid in your workplace and are their skills up to date?
- Do workers know how to access first aid if required?
- Is there easy access for emergency services, like parking for a fire truck?
The appropriate first aid code of practice can provide those with responsibility relating to first. With information, so they can be guided on the established requirement for workplace first aid.
Life safety and minimising harm will always be the object. Emergency procedures provide important guidance for first aiders to perform their role adequately.