Designing Your Workplace First Aid Program

Workplace First Aid Program

If you’re running a business, you already know that you’re legally obligated to provide your employees with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that may cause serious physical harm or death. However, do your employees know what to do when an accident—preventable or otherwise—or unexpected health emergency strikes on the job? A comprehensive workplace first aid program should be part of every safety management system in addition to hazard prevention and control.

Private industry employers reported nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries in 2012. There were also 4,628 occupational fatalities. The causes of these incidents were many. In addition to preventable slips, trips, falls and exposure to dangerous chemicals, workers may suffer from unexpected health emergencies such as sudden cardiac arrest.

The outcome of any occupational illness, injury or health emergency depends on the availability of first aid care and medical treatment as well as the severity of the incident. Prompt and properly administered first aid can make the difference between temporary and permanent disability or even life and death. Consider these suggestions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when designing your workplace first aid program.

1. Assess the risks. Take a look at the injuries and illnesses that have occurred within your workplace in the past. You may also want to review national data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at What incidents are most common within your industry? When designing your workplace first aid program, you’ll want to be sure to address these types of incidents thoroughly.

2. Determine EMS response times. Whether your business takes place in a single location or you have multiple jobsites, you should obtain estimates of emergency medical service response times for all hours of the day and night during which your employees are working. You can consult with the local fire and rescue service, hospitals and ambulance companies to gather this data.

3. Understand the law. The OSHA First Aid Standard (29 CFR 1910.151) requires a business have trained first-aid providers on site if there is no “infirmary, clinic or hospital in near proximity to the workplace, which is used for treatment of all injured employees.” Additionally, OSHA standards require that training to include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

4. Obtain supplies. The types and amounts of first-aid supplies on site should reflect the kinds of injuries and illnesses that are likely to occur. Your workplace risk assessment is an invaluable tool for this process. Store all supplies in an area that is readily available in the event of emergency.

5. Train your on-site first aid providers. The American Red Cross, the National Safety Council and other private educational organizations offer general first aid courses, though you may want to invest in training customized to the needs of your worksite. All training should address both potential life-threatening and non-life-threatening incidents. OSHA advises instructor-led retraining every six to 12 months.

6. Put policies and procedures in writing. You should document your workplace first aid program and communicate it to all of your employees, including those who do not read or speak English. If your workforce contains those for whom English is their second language, you may want to train both English and non-English speaking employees to become on-site first-aid providers.

7. Periodically review your program. At least once a year, review your first aid program and determine if the changing needs of your workplace have rendered it ineffective. Adjust your first aid supplies, training and policies accordingly.

Whether you’re designing your first workplace first aid program or adjusting a program you already have in place, your workers compensation insurance agent can help. Contact your agent today to discuss how first aid integrates into your complete safety management system.