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September 19, 2005
Basic First-Aid Practices Can Save Lives

Every employee should know basic first aid. If an employee is hurt in an accident, co-workers on the scene have to act fast. A few seconds one way or the other could make the difference between life and death when serious injuries are involved. Your employees don't need to be medical experts to help an accident victim. With just a little first-aid training, they can provide valuable help in a medical emergency, and maybe even save a life.

All employees should be able to respond with basic first aid to common workplace medical emergencies such as:

  • Wounds causing heavy bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Stopped breathing
  • No pulse
  • Choking
  • Shock
    Why It Matters...
    • Someone is injured on the job every 20 seconds.
    • Every hour someone dies at work.
    • The difference between surviving and dying may be only a few critical minutes.
    • When a person stops breathing, or when the heart stops beating, brain damage can occur within 4 to 6 minutes.
    • Every year nearly half a million Americans die because of heart attacks, usually within 2 hours of having an attack.
  • Heart attack
  • Eye injuries
  • Heatstroke
  • Chemical poisoning
  • Burns
Teach employees to observe first-aid priorities and take coordinated action. The first priority in any workplace medical emergency is to call for help. If an accident results in injuries, someone on the scene needs to get on the phone right away, call for an ambulance, and stay on the line with the dispatcher. Another employee should notify a supervisor. Another should head for the main entrance to await the EMTs and lead them to the scene of the accident. Other employees can give first aid. If only one employee is on the scene of an accident, the first priority is always to call for emergency medical assistance and then apply first aid while awaiting help.

Keep these other important considerations in mind. Not everybody is cut out to deal with a medical emergency. There's no shame in that. Emphasize to employees that they should never try to do more than they feel comfortable doing in an emergency. Employees who are uncomfortable giving first aid can take one of the other jobs. All actions taken in an emergency are important to the well-being of the victim or victims. Also, remind employees of the prime rule of first aid, which is, "Do no further harm." Remind them that if they don't know what to do in a medical emergency, it's best to simply call for help, try to keep the victim comfortable, and wait for the EMTs to arrive.

You may be able to find trainers close to home. Many organizations provide basic first-aid training to all employees. In some cases, training may be conducted by qualified employees who are trained as emergency first responders and have first-aid and CPR certification. If you have qualified first responders among your employees, ask them to serve as trainers. If you don't, perhaps your company doctor or nurse could conduct classes for employees. If those resources are unavailable, contact your local Red Cross or local hospital and ask them to help you set up basic first-aid training sessions.

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