Medical emergencies: Know your role
Employers should expect the unexpected and be prepared when employees need emergency medical assistance. Companies are required by law to have employee information at hand, which can save a life, too
Anything can happen to employees at work. This could include broken bones, dehydration or even a heart attack. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for employers to have employee information easily accessible on file in the case of medical emergencies, says Max Cohen, Emer-G-Med emergency services spokesperson.
“Patients are not always able to communicate information to paramedics, who are required to hand over sufficient information to hospital staff, so that they are able to contact the injured person’s family,” says Cohen.
According to Section 31 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997, an employer is required by law to have the following information of each employee on record: name and occupation; the time worked; the remuneration paid; the date of birth of any employee under 18 years of age; and any other prescribed information.
The “other prescribed information” includes, but is not limited to, contact details of next of kin, home address and contact details; and a copy of the employee’s green barcoded ID book or passport (with a valid work permit if the employee is not South African).
“This information, together with any additional information requested by an employer, must be kept confidential under specific regulations as set out in the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act,” says Cohen.
The POPI Act allows for personal information to be processed, or shared with other parties, to prevent or mitigate a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of an employee of a company.
To be prepared, companies can make it part of their regulations to keep a completed Employee Medical Emergency Information Record form to use in an emergency situation when an employee needs any kind of medical assistance.
This form should contain only the necessary personal, medical and emergency contact information. The personal information will help to identify the employee in case of any emergency.
The medical information may also help paramedics and other medical services to assess the employee’s medical state. The medical information should include: the name, address and contact number of the employee’s doctor, employee blood group, medical conditions, allergies, current medications and medical aid information.
Employees do have the right not to disclose their medical information to a company. They should, however, be encouraged to provide this information for their own safety. If an employee discloses their medical information, they must sign the form and indicate that the information is correct and that they have given the company permission to use the it in the case of an emergency.
Cohen says it is especially important to have employee information at hand when it comes to injury on duty (IOD). “Such information is required to complete the necessary Workmen’s Compensation Act (WCA) / IOD documentation. All companies should be registered with their respective IOD provider,” he says.
Cohen explains that employers are morally obligated to provide coverage for their injured employees. “All employers and managers should know how the WCA/IOD process works and should be informed on how to complete the relevant documentation. They should also have their WCA number easily accessible. IOD coverage costs are negligible,” he says.
If a company has a human resources department it is usually preferable for a representative from this department to keep each employee’s information on file, and to be easily reachable in the event of a medical emergency.
“If the correct personnel within a company (managers, supervisors and human resources representatives) have access to personal information, it helps to reduce the time it takes to get the patient to hospital,” says Cohen.
“It also assists in being able to transport patients to an appropriate hospital (IOD patients can go to a private hospital, even without medical aid), and with a non-critical patient, the hospital will wait for the relevant IOD forms to be completed before treating the patient.”
It is best practice to put employee health and safety first in any industry, if not for the sake of the company, then for the sake of the employees and their loved ones.