One of the facts of life is that in the workplace accidents will happen.  You can have the best safety program in the world, and you can do the most complete and thorough training possible and yet your employees will still get injured from time to time.

It is with this fact in mind that Cal-Osha along with Osha requires employers to make first aid available to all employees.  In this article, we will discuss the first aid standards that both Cal-OSHA and OSHA expect businesses to live up to.

OSHA STANDARDS REQUIREMENTS

GENERAL INDUSTRY REQUIREMENTS

OSHA requires that employers must provide either medical treatment for an injured employee or that a person at the workplace is adequately trained to render first aid. See CFR 1910.151(b).

What this means is that if there is not a place like a hospital is not close by, the employer must have someone trained to provide first aid to the injured employee.

The question that first comes to mind as businesses try to figure out what this means is, “What is proximity?” It would be nice if there was a simple answer but the truth is the answer depends. In the event of a serious injury like a fall, or electrocution or any serious accident OSHA says that the medical facility must be within 3 to 4 minutes.

On the other hand, if an employee has a minor accident OSHA allows up to 15 minutes’ distance to be acceptable.  So in truth, the answer really does depend on how serious the accident is.  If it is serious, then the response time must be within 3 to 4 minutes, but if it is not serious, then the response time can be up to 15 minutes.

As an employer, you are required by OSHA and Cal-OSHA to know what kind of an accident or injury that your employee may incur in the workplace.  Most employers I know would be asking, “How am I supposed to know that?”  There are a couple of ways that an employer can determine what injuries may happen to their employees.  The first way is to go through your Cal-OSHA 300 logs and see what injuries your employees have suffered in the past.

The second way is to review your company’s worker’s compensation records.  Both of these methods will tell you or at least give you an idea of what kind of accidents your employees might be subject to.  Now if you cannot meet either deadline, then you must have trained personnel on hand to assist in the event of an accident.

First Aid Training For Employees

The next question that employers usually ask is, “Where can I get such training for my employees?”  Well, you can go to a private industry, or you can go to the Red Cross.  This type of training is usually a one-time event for the injured employee and consists of the cleaning of small or minor cuts, the initial treating of burns, and the application of bandages.

First Aid does not include CPR, even though many employers make that training available to their employees.  Whatever training is covered needs to be documented in writing, and there should be practical tests that are administered after the training.

In addition to that, the employers need to make sure that the training that is provided will meet the realistic needs of the work environment.

To illustrate what practical First Aid Training would be, if your employees work outside, then the training should include how to identify heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Employers need to remember that the class completion certificates will expire, so it is wise to keep a record of not only who attended the class but when they attended the class.  A lot of First Aid Certificates expire around the three-year mark.

In addition to First Aid Training OSHA also requires that “adequate first aid supplies, [are] readily available” in the workplace.  Take Note of  29 CFR 1910.151(b).  Just a reminder employers need to keep in mind that the term “adequate” does depend on the job site.  Once again employers need to take the time to contemplate what types of injuries might their employees suffer based on the working conditions and potential hazards of that workplace.  Having this information in mind will help employers decide what they want to include in the First Aid Kit.

Keep in mind that this first aid kit needs to be easily accessed.  This is not that difficult when all of the employees work under one roof in an office.  On the other hand, if the employees are working outside covering a wide area, this can make the location of the kit much harder to choose.

A lot of companies that have drivers put a first aid kit in each of the vehicles that are driven. In view of this discussion, many employers want to know how can they prepare in the event that an employee has an accident because of a hidden health issue.  This is where employers must be very careful.  You cannot ask your employees direct questions concerning their health.

Construction Requirements

The construction Industry according to OSHA is to follow many of the same OSHA standards as the general workplace.  But there are also some differences Below is some of the differences.

  • OSHA’S Construction Standards mandate that someone who is trained in first aid is to be at every job site. 29 CFR 1926.50(c)
  • First Aid Supply’s must be stored in a “waterproof container.”
  • Each item in the container must be sealed individually.
  • The employer must check the first aid kit every time that kit is sent to a new job site.
  • The manager or the Safety Officer must check the kit weekly to ensure that the kit has been replenished.
  • If the job site has corrosive materials, then the job site must be equipped with an eyewash station that can double as a shower.

Cal-OSHA Requirements For Frist Aid

For the purpose of making this article more enjoyable to read we will list in bullet points what the difference is between Cal-OSHA and OSHA.

  • According to Cal-OSHA, your first aid kits must be approved by a physician.
  • The approval must also be in writing. Not that they don’t trust you. Cal-OSHA GISO § 3400(c)
  • This means that employers in California are to consult with a doctor.
  • No matter how extensive your first aid kit is you need to consult with a doctor and have his approval.

It is interesting to me that many of the suppliers of First Aid Kits in California supply an employer with a doctor’s note at the time they sell the kit.

Final Thoughts

  • Given the laws, there are some practical steps that an organization can take.
  • Do your homework, know what hazards may be there before your employees arrive.
  • Have your safety officer do a walk thru of the job site every day making sure to take note of any potential hazards that may be there.
  • Have a plan in place in the event that one of your employees need to go to a doctor while working on the job.
  • Develop a written Safety Program that will document your company’s procedures in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Make sure that all of your certificates of training are current.

Make sure that you have a Safety Program otherwise known as an Illness and Injury Prevention Program.  Along with that make sure that you are doing your Safety Training and documenting every topic that you cover.

Teach your employees to Think Safe, and then they will be safe.  Lastly, if you can’t do this yourself, do the smart thing and hire a Cal-OSHA safety consultant, one who not only knows the laws but how they are being enforced.