First aid is help given to a person who has been hurt or is suddenly taken ill. First aid includes the steps you can take before a person gets expert medical help.
Many work places in the world are located quite far from hospitals and physicians, and it is extremely important that these work places have employees and leaders who know basic first aid. Giving the correct type of first aid, may reduce the consequences of an injury or disease, and lives can even be saved. This is important for reducing the effect of work-related injuries and diseases as well as other types of diseases that may occur.
It is important that the company leadership understands the value of first aid competence at the work place. All workers should be trained in basic first aid.
The workers need to learn about:
- How to manage incidents calmly and safely
- How to carry out an examination of a casualty to determine further actions/treatments
- Treatment of unconsciousness
- Treatment of shock, bleeding
- Treatment of fractures
- Treatment of burns and scalds
- How to deal with heart attacks
- How to deal with eye injuries
- Basic life support
- First aid kits and dressings
Some work places may have specific work tasks, causing a need for specific training in first aid. This might be the case for work places with chemical hazards, for instance. Here the workers will need to know more about the specific first aid measures required when an acute intoxication has occurred. In a work place where the workers are exposed to electricity, they need to know how to handle electrical shocks. In a work place with scaffolds, the workers need to learn about head injuries. In outdoor work places in hot areas, the workers need to know how to treat heat shocks. Workers in fishing or sailors need to know how to handle drowning or near-drowning accidents. The management of a work place needs to evaluate the specific needs by performing a risk assessment.
This course will not give information on how to perform first aid, but as the topic is very important, we would like to inform about websites where this type of information exists. The British Red Cross, for instance, has produced videos on how to treat seriously bleeding patients, unconscious and breathing patients, unconscious and not breathing patients, and burns. These videos can be used to educate workers, althought they are not primarily made for workplaces.
A small cupboard for first aid equipment should be easily accessible at all work places
First aid equipment at work
A work place should have a first aid box, or a cupboard with first aid equipment, easily accessible. If the company is large, first aid equipment should be available at different locations. The content of a first aid Box Depends on the type of work and the first-aid needs. As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, a minimum stock of first-aid items can be:
- A leaflet giving general guidance on first aid
- Individually wrapped sterile plasters (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work
- Sterile eye pads
- Individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile
- Safety pins
- Large sterile individually wrapped wound dressings
- Medium-sized sterile individually wrapped wound dressings
- Disposable gloves
Although there is no specified review timetable for content of a first aid box, many items, particularly sterile ones, are marked with expiry dates. They should be replaced by the dates given and the expired items disposed of safely. In cases where sterile items have no dates, it would be advisable to check with the manufacturers to find out how long they can be kept. For non-sterile items without dates, it is a matter of judgement, based on whether they are fit for purpose. The first aid box should be checked every third month, and supplemented in-between if the contents have been used.
It is also useful to have a stretcher available at most workplaces, as stretchers make transport of injured persons easier. A stretcher does not have to be very advanced; it needs to be functional and easily available for the workers.
Larger workplaces are recommended to have a stretcher for transport of diseased or injured persons. To put a stretcher on the wall, like this, might be useful and make the stretcher easily available. (Photo: K. Segadal)
© University of Bergen/Authors: B.E. Moen, G. Tjalvin