Monday, November 7, 2011

Is employee first aid/CPR training required when a fire department is within 4 minutes of workplace?

Scenario: The facility, a clinical laboratory, is located an average of four minutes away from a fire department that provides first aid assistance.

Question 1: Would it be acceptable under 29 CFR 1910.151(b) in Subpart K, "Medical and First Aid," for the facility to rely on the fire department and avoid having employees trained in first aid to address emergency situations on site?

Response 1: The OSHA standard at 29 CFR 1910.151(b) states: "In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid . . . ." The primary requirement addressed by this standard is that an employer must ensure prompt first aid for injured employees, either by providing for the availability of a trained first aid provider at the worksite, or by ensuring that emergency treatment services are within reasonable proximity to the worksite. The basic purpose of this standard is to assure that adequate first aid is available in the critical minutes between the occurrence of an injury and the availability of physician or hospital care for the injured employee.

One option this standard provides employers is to ensure that a member of the workforce has been trained in first aid. This option is, for most employers, a feasible and low-cost way to protect employees, as well as putting the employer in compliance with the standard. The other option for employers is to rely upon the reasonable proximity of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital. OSHA has consistently taken the view that the reasonable availability of a trained emergency service provider, such as fire department paramedics or EMS responders, would be equivalent to the "infirmary, clinic, or hospital" specified by the literal wording of the standard. Emergency medical services can be provided either onsite or by evacuating the employee to an off-site facility in cases where that can be done safely.

An employer who contemplates relying on assistance from outside emergency responders as an alternative to providing a first-aid trained employee must take a number of factors into account. The employer must take appropriate steps prior to any accident (such as making arrangements with the service provider) to ascertain that emergency medical assistance will be promptly available when an injury occurs. While the standard does not prescribe a number of minutes, OSHA has long interpreted the term "near proximity" to mean that emergency care must be available within no more than 3-4 minutes from the workplace. This interpretation generally has been upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent tribunal that decides OSHA cases, and by federal courts.

Medical literature establishes that for serious injuries, such as those involving stopped breathing, cardiac arrest, or uncontrolled bleeding, first aid treatment must be provided within the first few minutes to avoid permanent medical impairment or death. Accordingly, in workplaces where serious accidents, such as those involving falls, suffocation, electrocution, or amputation are possible, emergency medical services must be available within 3-4 minutes if there is no employee on the site who is trained to render first aid. Since your facility is an average of 4 minutes from the fire department and thus possibly more than 4 minutes away from the fire station in reality, you may not rely on its emergency service providers to fulfill your obligation under the standard if such serious injuries are possible at your workplace. As a matter of enforcement discretion, OSHA recognizes that a somewhat longer response time of up to 15 minutes may be reasonable in workplaces, such as offices, where the possibility of such serious work-related injuries is more remote. If that is the case in your workplace, you are allowed to rely on the fire department, which is an average of 4 minutes away from your workplace.

After this Letter of Interpretation is given, one thing is sure - if an emergency medical facility is not within 4 minutes of the workplace, first aid training and CPR training is a must for at least 1 employee per shift.

1 comment:

  1. Many businesses are required to give employees training in first aid, and there are many benefits of having employees complete training such as CPR and injury prevention. In the case of an emergency in the workplace, the more employees who are first-aid trained the better the chance that one will be present if an accident occurs. If there is an accident, an employee who has received first aid training may be able to prevent further injury. Employees who are first-aid trained are also more likely to be more knowledgeable and conscious of safe behavior in the business environment, thus preventing injuries in the first place.