First-aid best practices for outdoor workers
By: Libby Burgher, Loss Control Associate
Employees that work outdoors are exposed to hazards that can result in injuries and illnesses, especially during the summer months. High temperatures can cause heat stress and related illnesses, while equipment such as lawn mowers, trimmers, chainsaws, and hand tools pose risks if precautions are not taken. Common outdoor injuries include trips and falls, fractures, sprains, lacerations, insect bites, and sunburns.
OSHA regulations may vary by industry, but general standards require all employers to:
- Ensure the ready availability of medical personnel for advice and consultation on occupational health matters
- Have adequate first aid supplies readily available
- Ensure there are one or more people in the workplace adequately trained to provide first aid unless there is a hospital, clinic, or infirmary for treating injured employees in close proximity (within 3 to 4 minutes for life-threatening emergencies)
By providing a first aid kit, employers are giving employees and medical personnel the tools to treat minor injuries or control problems until professional medical attention is obtained. Therefore, it is essential that these kits include the right supplies. The minimally acceptable number and type of supplies for first-aid kits, as defined by OSHA 1910.266, include: gauze pads (at least 4 x 4 inches), two large gauze pads (at least 8 x 10 inches), box adhesive bandages (band-aids), one package gauze roller bandage (at least 2 inches wide), two triangular bandages, a wound cleaning agent such as sealed moistened towelettes, scissors, at least one blanket, tweezers, adhesive tape, latex gloves, resuscitation equipment (such as resuscitation bag, airway, or pocket mask), two elastic wraps, a splint, and directions for requesting emergency assistance.
Employees should be able to identify and locate first-aid supplies in case of an emergency. Management may also provide first-aid certification training to staff members as an additional safety measure. Since the exposures of outdoor worksites are generally more difficult to control, safeguards must be in place for employees in these conditions. The checklist below outlines basic steps businesses can take to improve their first-aid practices.
First-aid checklist for small businesses:
- Keep a first-aid kit in each company-owned vehicle
- Provide basic first-aid training to employees
- Require employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when appropriate
- Instruct workers to take frequent breaks and stay hydrated when working in extreme heat
- Develop written safety programs for first-aid, heat stress prevention, and bloodborne pathogens
Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Business and Legal Resources