Just as workers have a responsibility to conduct themselves safely in the workplace, employers have a moral and legal responsibility to mitigate the effects of any reasonably anticipated accidents or injuries. Specifically, employers must comply with OSHA Standard 1910.151, which states that “adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.”
This makes good fiscal sense for employers – too: A well-resourced injury prevention, first aid and emergency response program can pay off in terms of lower insurance premiums, less disruption to the work flow, and reduced absenteeism.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released federal guidelines for workplace first-aid programs. Specifics depend on your industry. Construction sites should have a more extensive first aid program than general industry workplaces, for example.
First Aid Kits. Consider directing a responsible worker to inventory your first aid kits, and ensure they are complete, supplies have not been used up, and components are not expired. For most workplaces, the minimum standard for a generic workplace first aid kit is outlined in American National Standard (ANSI) Z308.1-1978.
You can include over-the-counter medicines in a first aid kit – such as Tylenol or aspirin. But make sure you do not include anything in the kit that may cause drowsiness. A sleepy worker who has just taken some cold medicine could cause a workplace accident much worse than a cold could ever cause.
If you reasonably expect workers treating other injured employees could come into contact with blood or other pathogens, you should also consider including personal protective equipment, such as latex gloves, masks, gowns and face shields.
Training. Depending on your industry and the specific workplace hazards, it may not be enough to just have a first-aid kit on hand. You may need to invest in training employees in how to provide First Aid, and CPR, and possibly the use of cardiopulmonary defibrillators. In some cases, your license or contract requires you to have trained and certified staff on hand.
Implementation. Occupational health and safety compliance is a full-time job in itself in some companies. If you have a lot of staff or have staff routinely exposed to hazardous conditions on site, you may want to appoint a health and safety manager for your workplace. This individual can be responsible for tracking current first aid and CPR certifications, scheduling training, inventorying first aid kits and supplies, and making recommendations for improvements to management.
This employee should not only be familiar with OSHA regulations on first aid and occupational safety and health, but also with regulations at the state level, as well – which may be more onerous than federal regulation.
For more information, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website at www.osha.gov.