Safety Articles

Article # 13108

New OSHA Rule Gives Industry First Aid Regulations a Makeover
New OSHA safety regulations regarding first aid, bloodborne pathogens and a new "needle stick" rule have initiated many changes in industrial first aid nationwide. David Darcy, safety manager for a manufacturer of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning devices, says that even companies that don't work with needles have had to tighten policies due to the new regulations.

"We use a product, the CPR Life Mask Compact barrier, which offers protection to both rescuers and victims in CPR emergencies. It is really in response to the first aid and needle stick regulation. Although we don't work with needles, we do have to be concerned with code 1910.1030 (regarding bloodborne pathogens). For instance, say I do CPR on Suzy Q, and there is blood involved. I have to make sure, for her safety and mine, that I use a barrier and that I dispose of all materials in a Biohazard bag."

Tom Fin, environmental and safety coordinator at a spark plug manufacturer, says that keeping things safe means restricting the number of employees who handle potentially hazardous materials. "When a new employee starts, he or she is required to take initial bloodborne pathogen training. After it's over, we make sure that they understand they are NOT qualified to handle bodily fluids and blood. If an incident occurs, they should alert an EMT or the janitorial staff to handle it. The people who handle bodily fluids and blood receive longer and more intense training."

First Aid First
Being concerned with bloodborne pathogens is just the tip of the iceberg for most safety teams. For Darcy and his staff, first aid has always been a priority. "Every person who is in a management position has general safety training - first aid and CPR," Darcy said. "Although there are two of us who are officially in charge of safety, any member of our human resources personnel can respond to a first aid emergency. So basically, there is always someone on hand who is prepared to treat an injury."

James Miller, human resource manager for a company that makes acoustical ceiling tiles, says the first step in first aid is having a safety culture. "We have just reached 6 million worker hours with no lost time. This is due largely to the sort of safety awareness we try to create here. It's very important to us that we remind workers daily of the dangers they are exposed to. We want to uphold a high standard of mindfulness, and couple that with quality protective gear," he says. "With Magid as our safety partner, we know the protection end is taken care of."

Miller also agrees that having a large proportion of the staff trained to handle emergencies is a must.

"Though we rarely use it, we have a sophisticated emergency-response system in place. We have 81 employees on staff - out of 560 - who are trained to administer CPR and first aid, and to handle incidents involving bloodborne pathogens. So, should a serious accident occur, things will go as smoothly as possible."

Miller says the relative lack of this sort of incident is due to flexibility and awareness on the part of the management. "All accidents and near-accidents must be reported to the supervisors," he notes. "Keeping on top of the dangers prevents accidents from happening."

Fin of the spark plug manufacturer, believes it is much better to be overly cautious than to risk overlooking something. "A little problem can become a huge problem if it's not handled correctly," he said. There are three levels of seriousness in considering employee injuries, according to Fin: simple first-aid calls, recordable injuries, and lost-time injuries. "If not handled correctly, a simple first aid accident could progress to a lost-time incident - for example, if a cut gets infected and requires advanced medical care," Fin says. "That's why every time there is an accident, the employee goes in to our EMT, who writes an injury report. We have them report everything, even near-accidents. The hope is, of course, that the injuries are going to require nothing more than a bandage and most of the time, that is all. But we want to be absolutely sure we are proactively addressing any potential or existing safety issues."

Training to the Rescue
As with most occupational hazards, the single most effective remedy for first aid injuries is proactive prevention. However, even the most safety-aggressive companies still have incidences that require on-the-spot first aid. Miller of the acoustical ceiling tile manufacturer, believes that good first aid means having a well-trained staff. "Our first responders are senior operators, as well as supervisors, and trained with the American Red Cross. When they are first promoted, they take a daylong class, and they are required to take annual refresher courses. Their training includes bloodborne pathogen training, and everyone is equipped with kits that include gloves and Biohazard disposal materials."

Darcy of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning devices manufacturer agrees that proper first aid training is the foundation upon which to build a strong safety staff. "It's important to us to be able to treat injuries in-house. Even with our proactive prevention efforts, working with sheet metal means we see more injuries than average, sometimes 10-15 cases a day. So it's essential that someone who can provide first aid be on staff at all times," Darcy says. "A new manager goes through several weeks of training, first general, then getting more specialized. Then when an incident occurs, we're prepared to perform the initial treatment ourselves and determine whether or not that person needs more specialized care."

The Right Training Backed by the Right Supplies
In addition to maintaining an experienced management team, Darcy is in charge of keeping the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning services manufacturer stocked with quality safety products. "All of our first aid products are supplied by Magid, about 120 line items. We carry cotton applicators (basically a long cotton swab), gauze, butterfly bandages, 3-4 kinds of tape, kling wrap, cool packs, eye wash, micro-masks, a clear mouth barrier for CPR, and lots of others. With Magid, we are always 100% stocked, because when we need something, it's definitely got to be there."

Fin of the spark plug manufacturer says he is impressed with the personalized service Magid provides. "We use safety glasses, ear plugs and medical preparations supplied by Magid, in addition to lots of heavy duty gloves. Our Magid rep works closely with us to make sure our stock is kept full, but at a reasonable level. In other words, we will never run out, but there's nothing superfluous. We need and appreciate that sort of service."