Injuries at work are always possible, even where safe work practices are strictly enforced and closely supervised. It is wise, therefore, to have First Aid materials on hand and ensure that there are staff members trained in First Aid.NSSA: Talking Social Security
First Aid is part of the emergency preparedness and response procedure for organisations. The provision of First Aid facilities is also a legal requirement; Section 10 of the Factories and Works (General) Regulations RGN No. 263 of 1976.
First Aid refers to the first, temporary and safe treatment of injuries before professional medical help arrives. It involves simple and rapid measures, such as clearing the air passageway, resuscitation of those who have stopped breathing, applying pressure to bleeding wounds or dressing chemical burns to the eye or skin.
Its main objectives include preservation of life, preventing injury or illness from worsening and promoting quick recovery.
There are several key variables to be considered when making provision for First Aid, including the type of work that takes place at particular premises and the level of risk associated with it.
Risks associated with a particular type of work may take into account factors such as the design and age of machinery, the maintenance of the equipment and the safety and control measures in place.
Offices and shops would normally be considered low-risk areas. Medium-risk areas would comprise such jobs as light engineering, assembly work and food processing. High-risk areas would include construction work, chemical plants and foundry. Notwithstanding the aforesaid, all workplaces must have first aid facilities within reach.
Situations requiring First Aid include falls, bruises, cuts, severed limbs, crushing injuries, entanglements, intoxication by chemicals, lack of oxygen (asphyxiation), electrical shocks, cardiac arrest, and exposure to infectious agents.
There should be trained first aiders at every workplace. It must be emphasised that all secretaries must be trained in first aid. The level of training and the extent of organisation for First Aid is dictated by the proximity of the enterprise to and its integration with readily available health services.
Each workplace’s First Aid programme must mould itself to and become an extension of the medical facilities that provide the definitive care for injured workers.
The choice of personnel for offering First Aid services is important. Workers who are hands-on and familiar with specific work operations may be considered for First Aid training. However, not every worker is suitable for training in First Aid.
The first aider should be selected carefully, taking into consideration attributes such as age, size, reliability, motivation and the ability to cope with people in a crisis situation.
There are a number of First Aid trainers. Those legally approved are the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, St John Ambulance, Medical Air Rescue Services and the Chamber of Mines.
These can provide basic level First Aider and advanced level First Aider training. The type and level of training depends on the circumstances within the enterprise, especially the type of work and the risk involved as assessed by the organisation during hazard identification and risk assessment.
Facilities to be provided vary according to the circumstances from a small travelling First Aid kit to a First Aid room. First Aid kits should be kept in dust-proof containers, ideally a wooden or metal box that is lockable. The box must be labelled with a red or green cross and the inscription “First Aid”.
The First Aid box should always be easily accessible, near areas where accidents can occur and where it can be reached without delay.
The trained and certified first aider should always be within reach, in order to be able to render assistance to anyone who is injured.
If the organisation is subdivided into departments or shops, one First Aid box and at least one first aider should be available in each unit.
A relatively simple First Aid box includes a sterile adhesive dressing, bandages, a variety of dressings, sterile sheet for burns, sterile eye pads, triangular bandages, safety pins, a pair of scissors, antiseptic solution, cotton wool balls and sterile plastic bags. There should also be access to ice.
Auxiliary kits must be provided for when workers are away from the establishment, such as in construction or agricultural work, or where employees work in small groups or in isolated locations.
These kits will vary according to circumstances, but should always include a few medium-sized dressings, bandages, triangular bandages and safety pins.
Further equipment may be needed for the provision of First Aid where there are unusual or specific risks. For example if poisonings are a possibility antidotes must be available in a separate container, though it must be made clear that their administration is subject to medical instruction.
Where it is possible and practicable there should be a First Aid room in which workers can be seen and treated in privacy.
Transport should be readily available for emergency evacuations.
Accurate records should be kept for all major and minor injuries or illnesses for future reference. The recording system should be simple, concise and factual.
Record keeping assists in deciding on further medical treatment and proper handling of patients. It also helps identify training needs. It helps occupational safety and health professionals provide health surveillance and systematically analyse failures in performance, thereby improving workers’ safety and health.
The First Aid facilities need to be complemented by training to increase awareness of safety and health.
Management should make available safety and health notices, posters and literature. It should arrange safety and health meetings and other means of informing staff who the first aiders are and where they and the First Aid boxes can be found.
Rules and regulations should be enforced to ensure that the right action is taken following an injury or illness. The importance of reporting all injuries or accidents and the disadvantages of not reporting them must be articulated.