Building your first aid program
How should my workplace determine what first aid supplies are needed and where to place them?
Responding is Ray Qureshi-Chishti, EHS editor, J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., Neenah, WI.
The outcome of occupational illnesses and injuries may rely on prompt, properly administered first aid, which depends on determining what first aid supplies are needed and where to place them at your workplace. In OSHA’s “Best Practices Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First-Aid Program,” the agency says a first aid program should be reviewed periodically to determine if it continues to address the needs of the specific workplace. This includes assessing first aid supplies that should be added or modified to account for changes since the previous review.
First aid kit supplies
The supplies should be adequate, reflect the kinds of injuries that occur and be stored in an area where they’re readily available for emergency use. OSHA says an AED should be considered when selecting first aid supplies and equipment. The agency recommends employers give a specific person the responsibility of choosing the types and amounts of first aid supplies.
A specific example of the minimal contents of workplace first aid kits is described in the American National Standards Institute standard Z308.1. The kits described are suitable for small businesses, OSHA points out. It would be best if you determined how many first aid kits are needed for large operations and whether it’s appropriate to augment the kits with additional first aid equipment and supplies.
Also, if you have unique or changing first aid needs, consider upgrading your kits. Using OSHA Forms 300 and 301 or other records may be helpful to identify your workplace’s first aid supply needs. Consultation with the local fire and rescue service or emergency medical professionals also may be beneficial.
Placement of kits
OSHA’s 1910.151(b) standard states: “In the absence of an infirmary, clinic or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid.”
Regarding “near proximity,” the agency says in a Feb. 9, 1994, letter of interpretation that in areas where incidents resulting in suffocation, severe bleeding, or other life-threatening or permanently disabling injury or illness can be expected, a three- to four-minute response time is required. In other circumstances (i.e., a life-threatening or permanently disabling injury is unlikely), a longer response time of 15 minutes is acceptable.
Employers can use these response times to determine the placement of first aid supplies in the workplace. For example, if you have a work area where life-threatening injuries could occur, first aid kits should be accessible within four minutes. For work areas where life-threatening injuries aren’t expected to happen, first aid kits should be accessible in less than 15 minutes.
When deciding on the number of AEDs to purchase, remember that responders should be able to reach the victim, make an assessment and begin treatment within three to four minutes.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.