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What is Occupational First Aid?

By J. Leach
Updated May 17, 2024
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Occupational first aid is emergency treatment for an injury or illness provided — for minor injuries or before professional emergency medical care arrives — on a job site. The care given at a work location can be as simple as helping clean and bandage a minor wound, or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Some employers may choose to have employees trained and certified in varying levels of occupational first aid, so that they are prepared to handle a variety of emergencies.

Basic first aid can involve maintaining a first aid kit that contains such items as pain killers, bandages, antibiotic ointment, and various over the counter medications. The kit may also contain instructions, or a manual, on how to help someone who is choking, how to bandage a wound, or how to perform CPR. An employer may also require employees to attend a basic first aid course for more detailed instructions.

Employees can be trained, and receive certification, to show that they have more advanced first aid skills. Certification for occupational first aid is often divided into three or four levels, and the requirements depend upon the country where one is seeking certification. Most countries require Level One applicants to be older than 16 years and to have completed at least seven hours of training. More advanced levels require more hours of training and usually include a written exam.

Workers seeking training are first taught the Priority Action Approach. This plan determines how emergencies should be approached by first aid responders and providers. The first step in the Priority Action Approach is to determine whether or not any dangers still exist, and if any do, check and see if the threat can be safely eliminated. The aid provider will then evaluate how many, and how badly, people are injured. Once this information is known, a trained employee typically calls for help, from other workers and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

Each patient is typically triaged and given a brief evaluation that checks for spinal injuries, respiratory issues, and blood loss. Patients who are losing quite a bit of blood will be bandaged and have a tourniquet applied, if necessary, to halt blood loss. If a patient is suffering from shock, he or she will be given a blanket and oxygen, if possible.

Someone certified as a Level One occupational first aid provider should know how to help co-workers suffering from stroke, various diabetic conditions, and seizures. He or she should also know how to deal with various respiratory problems, like asthma. Occupational first aid practitioners may be trained in not only CPR, but also in how to use an emergency defibrillator. Emergency defibrillators are used to shock the heart into performing normally.

Large companies may have a trained employee stationed in each department of the business, in order to safeguard workers and maintain first aid supplies. A company may also have a space dedicated solely to occupational first aid. Employees who are responsible for providing aid may have to care for this space.

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