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Published: April, 2010; Vol 6, Num 11
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First Aid for the Workplace

A construction worker gets a serious injury on a jobsite. You need to get him help quickly. How close is the nearest emergency room? How long will it take to get the worker there? What should you do in the meantime? Is there anyone on hand who can treat the worker until the ambulance arrives? What are his qualifications? What are the minimum requirements for you, as an employer, to follow, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?

Beware of Bees and Other Bugs

Bees and wasps can be more than construction site nuisances. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to insect stings and bites. Peanuts, shellfish, penicillin and sulpha medications can also trigger anaphylaxis. Symptoms develop within seconds:

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) calms anaphylaxis. This antihistamine is sold over-the-counter (OTC) and should be included in all first aid kits. Administer at the first sign of anaphylaxis and call 911 immediately for further instruction.

In 2008 alone, over 300,000 construction workers got hurt or sick while on the job. This underscores the importance of having someone on-site who knows how to administer first aid as well as an appropriately stocked first aid kit. These necessities are essential to jobsite safety.  All places of employment should have both.

First aid is the initial on-site attention administered to an employee who becomes injured or ill during the workday. Minor cuts, scrapes, eye irritants, headaches and stomachaches are typical occurrences that can usually be addressed through one-time, short-term treatment. On occasion, worksite first aid may also involve stabilizing a seriously injured or ill person until the ambulance arrives.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces for their employees. Emergency care must be “reasonably accessible” or in “near proximity… no more than 3-4 minutes from the workplace.”

Due to the risks associated with construction work and the fact that worksites can be some distance from medical care, OSHA devotes a specific standard – 1926.50 – to medical services and first aid at construction sites. Key points include: someone on-site with a valid certificate in first aid training from the American Red Cross, U.S. Bureau of Mines or some equivalent entity. The site must also have a first aid kit – contents must be checked weekly by the employer – stored in an accessible, weatherproof container.

According to OSHA guidelines, kits meeting American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z308.1- 2003 Minimum Requirements for Industrial Unit-Type First Aid Kits are adequate for small worksites. Employers with large, multiple sites or unique and changing first-aid needs may need additional supplies.

OSHA’s 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, 301 Injury and Illness Incident Reports and local fire and emergency rooms are good sources for determining what the first aid staples are for specific construction sites.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]