First aid requirements in the workplace
Sam Kadiri and Dirk Niessing give some pointers on first aid in the workplace, as published in the Safety Handbook by the Safety First Association.
First aid stations are required in the workplace when there is a reasonable probability of injury that may demand the immediate attention of a first aider. First aid stations are not meant to replace professional treatment. They are to be utilised only for immediate treatment or when professional medical treatment will not be necessary for the injury.
Administrative and engineering controls, safe work practices and the use of personal protective equipment remain the primary means of controlling work-related injuries.
The following minimum contents of the first aid box are prescribed in the General Safety Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act (Act 85 of 1993):
• wound cleaner/antiseptic (100 ml)
• swabs for cleaning wounds,
• cotton wool for padding (100 g)
• sterile gauze (minimum 10)
• one pair of forceps (for splinters)
• one pair of scissors (minimum size: 100 mm)
• one set of safety pins,
• four triangular bandages,
• four roller bandages (75 mm x 5 m)
• four roller bandages (100 mm x 5 m)
• one roll of elastic adhesive (25 mm x 3 m)
• one non-allergic adhesive strip (25 mm x 3 m)
• one packet of adhesive dressing strips (10 in assorted sizes)
• four first aid dressings (75 mm x 100 mm)
• four first aid dressings (150 mm x 200 mm)
• two straight splints
• disposable latex gloves (2 x large, 2 x medium pairs)
• CPR mouth pieces or similar devices (x 2).
The first aid box may not contain pain tablets, creams and similar products not meant for first aid.
The General Safety Regulations of the OHS Act (Act 85 of 1993) has the following requirements:
1. When five people are employed, the employer must provide an accessible first aid box. In the event of an employer having more than 10 employees there must be one qualified first aider for every 50 people in industrial workplaces and for every 100 employees in shops and offices. In practical terms there should be more first aiders, providing for qualified first aid staff during shift work or in the event of absenteeism.
2. Consideration must be given to the fact that one or two workers can die as easily as five or 10 workers. The principle should be: if a worker is seriously injured, can first aid keep him or her alive until professional medical assistance is available?
3. In South Africa, first aiders must be trained by a training provider accredited by the Department of Labour and must also be in possession of valid certificates.
4. In the event of the employees having to handle dangerous substances or being exposed to dangerous processes, the first aid box should contain equipment suitable for the particular risks. First aiders should also be trained in the procedures to treat the injuries that may result from such activities.
5. Only first aid provisions specified in the list as per the OHS Act, General Safety Regulation 3, may be kept in the first aid box.
6. The locations of first aid boxes must be clearly marked by means of symbolic signs. Workers must know who is in charge of the box and familiarise themselves with the sites within their own section.
7. Eye wash stations must be provided where the possibility may exist that a worker could be exposed to substances that may lead to eye injuries.
8. Where exposure to substances that could be absorbed by or damage the skin exists, the employer must provide an emergency shower in the immediate vicinity of such a workplace.