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First-Aid Training for Workplace Readiness

Knowing how to respond during incidents takes safety programs to the next level.

By: Shana McGuinn, Contributor

OSHA recommends that CPR be learned through ‘hands-on’ training using mannequins. © rh2010 –

There are automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and first-aid kits located at strategic locations throughout your facility, so your company is prepared for an injury or a medical emergency, right? Having the appropriate equipment and supplies on hand is the foundation of an effective first-aid program, but it’s not enough. Making sure that some of your employees and/or managers are trained to respond to serious and potentially life-threatening incidents will take your program to the next level — a level at which a life could be saved or long-term negative health effects could be avoided.

Conducting an assessment of the hazards and corresponding injury possibilities in your particular workplace is a good first step. Are employees required to use tools, machinery or substances that may cause burns (including chemical burns), cuts, electrical shock or musculoskeletal injuries? Could incidents occur that may require first aid actions to stop bleeding, limit damage to skin or ease pain? Must workers function in extreme temperatures that could cause heat stress, frostbite and hypothermia? Are co-workers ready to render assistance to someone who has been overcome by an unexpectedly toxic atmosphere in a confined space?

It should be noted that first aid is not a substitute for medical care given by trained health care professionals. However, someone without an “MD” after their name, but with first-aid training, can help stabilize someone’s condition, limit the severity of the injury and, in some cases, keep them alive until they can get more advanced treatment from emergency medical technicians or physicians in emergency departments. This is especially true in the event of an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which affects more than 350,000 people in the U.S. each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1] (CDC).

So, in addition to enabling people to take quick action in the event of a work-related injury, training can help save lives threatened by SCAs, opioid overdoses, allergies severe enough to cause anaphylactic shock and other health crises that may or may not be work-related. An SCA, for instance, may arise from an existing heart condition. It can also be triggered by workplace incidents, like electric shock, overexertion or asphyxiation in a confined space.


First-aid training is available from organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Red Cross, the National Safety Council (NSC) and a variety of private companies. Courses are offered at local chapters, at training centers and even online — although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that certain skills, like cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), be learned through ‘hands-on’ training using mannequins and practicing with partners.

Some training programs offer instructor-led classroom learning or blending learning that combines instructor-led with online portions. If you prefer in-person classes, convenience is key. Are the particular classes you want your employees to take available in your area? If you want your employees to receive certifications upon the completion of a course, look for programs that provide those.

Courses to consider:

  • Basic first aid
  • CPR
  • AED
  • Opioid overdose response
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • First aid for severe trauma


The AHA has a Cardiac Emergency Response Plan (CERP)[2] in the form of a checklist that establishes the specific steps to reduce death from cardiac arrests. CERP is based on three simple steps:

  • Share the plan at your site
  • Practice the plan using routine drills
  • Activate the CERP Team if an SCA occurs

The American Red Cross[3] has on-site training programs for teams and employees. The organization uses an active learning methodology that includes live-action videos and having learners take turns simulating roles to reinforce the lessons.

The NSC[4] offers customized training scenarios. You can opt to have authorized instructors come to your worksite to provide training, thus eliminating lost time and the cost of travel expenses. On-site courses through the NSC include: first aid, CPR, AED and combinations of those and other topics, like bloodborne pathogens.


Whatever first-aid training your employees participate in, OSHA says it should be reviewed every three years, so that updated techniques can be incorporated into it. As for CPR skills — the agency recommends that those learners be retested annually. Additionally:

  • Assign and train the people who will be the on-site first-aid providers
  • Make sure the training they receive is suitable to your specific workplace
  • Put your first-aid policies and procedures in writing, and communicate that information to all employees. Address any language barriers that may exist, so that all employees are aware of your company’s first-aid program.
  • Get estimates of EMS response time to your location/s. Consulting with local first responders could provide information to use in tailoring your first-aid training program according to your company’s individual needs. WMHS

Shana McGuinn is a freelance writer who contributes articles about occupational safety, environmental issues and health and wellness.





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