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Seven First-Aid Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

January 10, 2020

Safety management is a broad topic, and it’s easy for organizations to struggle with all the ins and outs of compliance. One area where employers often run into issues is first aid. Here are seven pitfalls to check and avoid.

Seven First-Aid Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Determining whether you are required to have first aid providers onsite.  Many employers assume that they are required to have employees onsite at their workplaces to provide first aid and other medical assessment.  This is not necessarily the case.  The safety standards only require that there be a trained first aid provider onsite if there is no hospital, fire department, or treatment facility in near proximity to the workplace.  For manufacturing and other more hazardous industries, this generally means that there must be a hospital or first responders close enough to arrive within 3-4 minutes.  For office environments and other less dangerous workplaces, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has stated that longer response times, up to 15 minutes, may be acceptable.  If you are in doubt, you should contact your local fire department to determine the expected response time to your location.
  2. Your staff lacks proper training.  If you are required to have first aid providers onsite, you will need to provide them with training on when and how to administer that first aid.  That training should include instruction on bloodborne pathogens (exposure to infectious disease, etc), personal protective equipment to be used, the locations and use of first aid equipment, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and using an automatic external defibrillator (AED). This training should be documented and refresher training conducted periodically.  Providing your team with training gives your employees what they need to intervene effectively in the event of an emergency, and that know-how could save someone’s life.
  3. Your first-aid protocols are not tailored to meet the risks and likely injuries of the work in your industry. There is no one-size-fits-all safety program for every workplace. OSHA has enacted  safety standards that are specific to different industries or types of work.  . You need to perform an analysis of the types of injuries or threats that are most likely to occur in your workplace, check to see if OSHA has specific guidelines that apply to your workplace, and tailor your safety program and training to those safety requirements. Construction work, for example, poses very specific safety risks, and OSHA outlines particular standards for employers in that space.
  4. Your first-aid kits are not properly stocked, or they are not readily available to your entire team. The industry you are in, the specific risks to your team’s safety, and state law all impact what you should put in your first-aid kit. It’s important that you routinely check your kits and make sure they have all the necessary supplies. You also need to make sure these kits are readily available to your entire staff. This may be less of an issue for companies with employees who are largely in an office setting, but those with staffs that include drivers, employees traveling between locations, and professionals who operate in a field setting need to have fully stocked first-aid kits available in company vehicles and in close proximity to those who are out on job sites.
  5. You don’t properly track injuries and other safety incidents. You need to know when you have to record an incident and when it’s not required. You also need to know when you must report an injury to OSHA or the applicable state agency and the timeframe for doing so.  For example, OSHA and its state safety counterparts mandate that you record an incident when the resulting injury necessitates more than basic first aid to provide effective treatment, requires treatment by a health care professional, results in days away from work, or restricted work.  The specifics of these kinds of injuries need to reported on an OSHA 301 Form and included on the facility’s OSHA 300 Log.  These records must be kept for at least five years following the year in which they are created.  There are also incidents that require employers to report to OSHA.   OSHA requires that a fatality in your workplace be reported within 8 hours and any amputation or in-patient hospitalization be reported within 24 hours.
  6. You don’t keep up with changes in your workplace or the law.  Your workplace can change and with that change can come additional or different safety risks.  There are also frequent changes in the law and regulations relating to safety in the workplace. Keeping up with these changes ensures that your plan and procedures around safety management and first aid are compliant with OSHA’s federal and state-based regulations. If your organization doesn’t check in on these things routinely, your organization could be at risk for compliance-related penalties.
  7. You aren’t following the particulars of state-level OSHA law. While federal OSHA generally establishes most of the guidelines for safety in the workplace, there are a number of states that have their own state safety agencies.  For example, while workplace safety in Ohio is overseen by federal OSHA, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan have their own state safety programs, which can have different and more stringent requirements.  You’ll need to be familiar with the requirements of your specific state.

Immediate Steps You Can Take

If you realize your company’s first-aid practices are in serious need of an update, there are a few things you can do right away. Federal OSHA’s website, www.osha.gov, provides a tremendous amount of guidance on what the standards require and how to properly create and implement a first aid program.  You should also be sure to check for rules that are specific to your state.  The federal and state safety regulations can sometimes be difficult to understand and apply.  If you have questions, you should consult an attorney experienced in occupational safety and health issues to ensure that you are in compliance.  Failure to do so can result in significant OSHA citations and associated penalties and open your company up to costly lawsuits.  Most importantly, compliance with the applicable safety standards very well could save a life. 

About the Author

Andrew R. Kaake

Andrew R. Kaake

Andrew Kaake is a partner in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Area.

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