First Aid in the Workplace in the Construction Industry
The workplace can present different kinds of risks and hazards to workers, hence, work health and safety (WHS) laws and regulations have been put in place. These laws and regulations are meant to guide and help business owners, employers, contractors and labourers ensure safety measures in their respective workplaces while performing their tasks.
A workplace where workers are not exposed to dangers that may result to serious injuries or illnesses are considered to be a low-risk workplace, while those which does expose workers to such hazards are considered to a high-risk workplace. In both kinds of workplaces, there is the need to provide effective and immediate first aid to workers that may have been injured or become sick due to work-related incidents or conditions.
What is first aid?
In the Code of Practice, first aid is defined as “the immediate treatment or care given to a person suffering from an injury or illness until more advanced care is provided or the person recovers”. The personnel that administers first aid is required to complete a nationally accredited training course before he or she can be recognised as a competent first aider.
First aid facilities and equipment should also be in place according to the number of workers, nature of activities, types of hazards, location and size of the workplace. This includes first aid kits, first aid rooms and signs, health centers and clean water supplies, among others.
Who has the duty to ensure first aid?
According to the WHS Act, the primary duty to ensure first aid in the workplace lies on the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). In relation to first aid, the WHS Regulations obliges the PCBU to
- provide and ensure the accessibility of first aid equipment and facilities to workers
- train a sufficient number of first aiders and ensure their accessibility to all workers.
Officers or supervisors in the workplace also have the duty to ensure first aid. They should exercise due diligence to make sure that the WHS Act and Regulations are complied with in the workplace.
Workers have the duty to ensure health and safety for themselves as well as that of others. They must comply with the health and safety measures that are in place and encourage others to do the same.
How to determine first aid requirements in the workplace
The PCBU must consider the following in order to determine the appropriate first aid requirements in the workplace:
1. Nature of work and workplace hazards
The risks and hazards in the workplace vary greatly depending on the work environment. Offices, shops or libraries are considered to be low-risk workplaces since these do not expose workers to serious injuries or illnesses. On the other hand, construction sites, factories and mining sites are examples of high-risk workplaces. These work environments are saturated with risks and hazards from exposure to powerful machineries, chemical substances or confined workspaces. First aid requirements for these places will consequently vary to meet the specific needs.
2. Size and location of the workplace
If the workplace is a large area, first aid facilities and equipment may be located in more than one area or may be situated centrally. The distance between the workplace and hospitals and ambulance services should also be considered. For remote work areas, it is very important that a reliable communication system be established.
3. The number of workers in the workplace
The larger the workforce, the more first aiders and first aid kits will be needed. Additionally, it should also be considered whether the workforce are in a low-risk or high-risk workplace.
- One for every 10–50 workers
- Two for every 51–100 workers
- Additional one first aider for every additional 100 workers
- One for up to 50 workers
- Two for up to 26–50 workers
- Additional one first aider for every additional 50 workers
What should a first aid kit contain?
The contents of a first aid kit may vary from one workplace to another as there are varying factors to be considered; however, a first aid kit may generally contain basic equipment for administering first aid for injuries such as
- Cuts, scratches, punctures, splinters
- Muscular sprains
- First-degree burns (minor)
- Major bleeding wounds
- Injuries to the eyes
- Broken bones (from falls or slips)
Types of First Aid Training
All first aiders should be trained from a registered training organisation (RTO) that is nationally recognised. Statement(s) of Attainment will be issued by the RTO once the first aiders have successfully completed training.
Training competencies aim to equip first aiders to the following:
- Provide first aid – This type of training will teach first aiders to respond to common injuries or illness that may be life-threatening, which includes the use of a CPR First aider will also manage the incident until further medical assistance may arrive.
- Provide advanced first aid and advanced first aid response – This type of training provides first aid to high-risk workplaces. Additional competencies are required to apply advanced first aid response.
- Manage first aid services and resources – This type of training provides competencies to administer advanced first aid as well as manage first aid rooms.
- Provide first aid in remote situations – This type of training provided competencies required to apply first aid in an isolated situations or remote workplaces where access to emergency services may be delayed.
High-risk workplaces may require first aid officers and supervisors to undergo and successfully complete the Occupational First Aid Training.