Why It’s Smart to Train at Least One Employee in First Aid

A solid first aid program can save a life and keep minor injuries from becoming more serious ones.

Accidents happen, and a clear plan to deliver first aid — cleaning minor cuts or scratches, dispensing non-prescription medicine, draining blisters, applying eye wash to remove debris, giving fluids when a worker is overcome with heat stress — should be one of the first orders of business for construction companies that want to ensure the well-being of their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agrees with this and has established minimum standards for first aid on the job site.

If there isn’t a clinic, hospital or other facility capable of providing medical care for injured workers in near proximity — which OSHA has clarified to mean no more than 3 to 4 minutes away — then someone with the ability to deliver first aid must be available onsite. That individual must be certified by the Red Cross or have received comparable training.

Even if there is a medical facility within 4 minutes of your worksite, you may still want to have at least one person per shift who is trained in first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Here’s why.

Timing. No matter how close the medical facility is, it is invaluable to have someone already on the jobsite who can respond immediately with potentially lifesaving emergency care. According to the National Safety Council, an ambulance with an EMT is often 8 to 10 minutes away, and someone who can use an AED if a person goes into sudden cardiac arrest (a leading cause of death in people over 40) could increase that person's chance of survival from just 5 percent to 40 percent. Administering CPR, according to the American Heart Association, can double or triple a person's chance of surviving cardiac arrest, which is usually deadly when it happens outside of a hospital.

Cost. For minor injuries that require first aid only, having someone capable of providing it onsite is less expensive than seeking outside care (or worse, letting the employee ignore it). In addition, immediate attention to an injury can sometimes keep it from escalating into something more serious — and costly.

Workers' sense of security. Having instant access to medical care could put employees at ease and make them happier in their jobs. In this time of growing skilled labor shortages, a culture of safety helps retain much-needed workers.

A readily available, properly stocked first aid kit is also something contractors must have on the job. While OSHA doesn't mandate the exact contents for use in the construction industry, the agency suggests using the American National Standard (ANSI) Z308.1-1978 "Minimum Requirements for Industrial Unit-Type First-aid Kits" as a starting point.

These kits contain items like compresses, bandages, antiseptic, burn treatment and bandages, but the contents should be evaluated and supplemented so they meet the threats employees are likely to encounter on a specific job. OSHA suggests a review of accident logs to determine the types of injuries that are most likely to occur so the company can stock its kit accordingly.