Building Your Occupational Emergency Medical Care Program: A First Aid Expert Examines What It Means to Be Prepared for a Medical Emergency in Your Workplace

Article excerpt

Preparedness is on everyone's mind these days. Aside from the daily possibility of routine medical emergencies such as heart attack or workplace injury, there is additional urgency to be ready due to the current political state of the world. The constant threat of terrorism creates a great need to anticipate and prepare for the possibility of a medical emergency or injury in the workplace.

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The question that vexes the average safety director is, "What is prepared?" What can a company do to be at optimum readiness? Are there any regulations, guidelines or suggestions to structure a company program? Like any other safety program, these types of projects can range from a short session aimed solely at minimum compliance to a sophisticated program with initial training, refresher sessions and drills, and a true emergency team. Program lengths can range from short, 2-3 hour workshops to full- or multiple-day programs, and are generally easy to implement, provided one can analyze the needs of the workplace and make an informed decision.

In this article, we will discuss the relevant regulations, program types and specific workplace needs so that you, the safety manager, can make a deliberate and informed decision on the subject.

Regulations

There are remarkably few regulations affecting CPR and first aid programs in the workplace. The main OSHA standard regarding this topic is 29 CFR 1910.151--the "Access to Medical Care" standard. Aside from outlining the need for "adequate first aid supplies" (not very specific, although the ANSI standard for first aid kits is a good place to start), it does clearly create some employer requirements for training. Basically, it states that employers must guarantee employees access to medical care. After a request for interpretation, OSHA explains that if the workplace has a potential for severe life-threatening hazard (suffocation, electrocution, etc.), an employee must have medical care within 3-4 minutes. Where no such hazard exists, such as an office location, the standard is 15 minutes. Where a municipal emergency service is not available within the specified timeframe (in locations with severe hazards, the municipal EMS will likely not guarantee a 3-4 minute response time), employers must provide employees training in CPR and first aid.

Another relevant OSHA standard is 29 CFR 1910.1030--the Bloodborne Pathogens standard. This creates an obligation for additional training for employees who have anticipated contact with blood or bodily fluid as a result of a workplace activity or function. This means if you've assigned your employees to first aid duties (not simply trained them, but created an expectation of service), there are some additional compliance needs. Most of these are very simple training burdens, but there may be a need for Hepatitis B vaccination in some cases. A good consultant is helpful in providing interpretation on this standard, as there are some interesting circumstances in which an employer will not be penalized for non-vaccination. This can save a company a lot of money and sometimes allow a previously squeamish employer to implement an emergency response team where the cost of vaccination is viewed as prohibitive.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED) laws vary from state to state, and are also an important regulatory component if your program includes that type of device. Although each state has its own act for allowing Public Access Defibrillation (PAD), the standard template includes liability immunity for the AED's owner and users provided CPR and AED training is provided, device maintenance is conducted as per the manufacturer's specifications, and other requirements are followed.

Although there are not too many laws that force a general workplace to have an AED, it is an important life-saving therapy for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The support for such devices from third-party experts is also very strong--OSHA has a letter of endorsement for the devices, as does the American Heart Association and the American Safety & Health Institute. …