Regardless of how detailed your construction company’s safety plan is and despite how in-depth and meticulous your training program is, accidents involving injuries can still occur. When a worker suffers an injury it is vital to have a first aid program in place. Because no two construction sites are exactly the same, you should design a jobsite specific first aid program so that your workers can receive the best possible care should they suffer an injury. Procedures for developing a jobsite specific first aid program should be a part of you overall safety plan. Each first aid program should be written down and copies should be kept on hand for reference, review and revision.
Be sure to check with OSHA or your state’s OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plan when drafting your first aid program. Some states have more stringent requirements that supersede federal OSHA standards. Also, some construction work has additional requirement from OSHA. For example, work involving electric power transmission and distribution requires people with first aid training be onsite when workers are exposed to lines or equipment energized at 50 volts or higher.
Have a Trained First Aid Provider Onsite
OSHA’s requirements for providing first aid for workers in the construction industry are a bit vague. According to 1926.50(b), “Provisions shall be made prior to commencement of the project for prompt medical attention in case of serious injury.” and 1926.50(c) states “In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, hospital, or physician, that is reasonably accessible in terms of time and distance to the worksite, which is available for the treatment of injured employees, a person who has a valid certificate in first-aid training from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the American Red Cross, or equivalent training that can be verified by documentary evidence, shall be available at the worksite to render first aid.”
OSHA’s interpretation of “reasonably accessible in terms of time and distance to the worksite” where serious accidents are possible means having emergency medical services (EMS) available within 3 – 4 minutes. That’s not a lot of time, especially if you’re trying to fight traffic to get a worker to a medical facility for treatment or waiting on emergency medical service providers to arrive to your construction site.
This is one of those instances that you should err on the side of caution and have one or two workers onsite who are trained to administer first aid regardless of whether medical care is reasonably accessible. This is the best way to ensure your workers receive first aid as quickly as possible following an injury. Having trained first aid providers on the construction site will give your workers an added sense of security and removes any question as the whether or not you are complying with OSHA standards.
First aid providers should receive training that includes basic first aid, CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Additional training may be required depending on the type of work being performed at the jobsite. Retraining should be done every year for CPR and the use of an AED and every 2 – 3 years for first aid training depending on how long the certification is good for.
If you choose not to have a trained first aid provider on the jobsite each day, be sure to contact your local EMS provider to discuss estimated response times when work is taking place at your jobsite and to discuss other issues or concerns you might have regarding your first aid program.
Identify & Assess Potential Risks & Hazards
Each construction site is different with its own unique set of risks and hazards that can change from day to day depending on the work being performed. As part of your company’s safety plan you should already be identifying, assessing and mitigating potential hazards and risks at the jobsite. At the same time you should be identifying the possible injuries that could occur in order to tailor your first aid program to your jobsite.
This will allow you to make sure that your first aid kits are properly stocked with supplies and supplemented with any additional equipment that might be needed as well as ensuring your first aid providers have the necessary training to treat any of the possible injuries you’ve identified.
Supply & Stock First Aid Kits
Employers are required to make 1926.50(d)(1) “first aid supplies shall be easily accessible when required.” and, 1926.50(d)(2) “the contents of the first aid kit shall be placed in a weatherproof container with individual sealed packages for each type of item, and shall be checked by the employer before being sent out on each job and at least weekly on each job to ensure that the expended items are replaced.”
First aid kits should be stocked with supplies that reflect the types of injuries that could occur at the jobsite. This should include any additional equipment such as eye/face wash stations, PPE for protecting against bloodborne pathogens or rescue equipment for confined spaces. Make sure you are providing OSHA compliant first aid kits. There are a number of companies out there that package first aid kits specifically for the construction industry.
First aid kits should be inspected each week to take inventory of what’s been used and to restock any depleted supplies. Remember, first aid kits should contain supplies to treat any injuries that are reasonably expected to occur on the jobsite.
Train & Educate Employees
Even if all of your workers aren’t trained in providing first aid, they should be educated on what to do in the event that they or a coworker suffers an injury. Workers should be provided with the procedures for reporting and injury and receiving first aid. Workers should be informed of the location of all first aid kits available on the jobsite along with a posted list of emergency contact numbers. If you have trained first aid providers on the jobsite, inform your workers of their names and where they can be found throughout the day.
Workers should not attempt to administer first aid to themselves or others if they aren’t properly trained as they could end up doing more harm than good. If workers are in areas not easily accessible, provide them with a communication device such as a radio or cell phone in order to quickly request first aid in the event of an injury. Daily safety briefings should include any new or increased risk of injury that may arise.
Evaluate & Update Program As Needed
Your first aid program should be evaluated throughout the life of the construction project and updated when the risk of new injuries arise. Conditions at construction sites and change drastically and rapidly and it is important to make adjustments to your first aid program as necessary. This is especially true for long projects but should also be done for projects where the working conditions can change drastically from one day to the next.