October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month, so it’s the perfect time to spotlight the importance of workplace first aid.
And it’s worth paying attention to. According to Employment Canada’s 2020 Occupational Injuries Annual Report, nearly 40,000 workplace injuries were reported, of which, over 42% were disabling.
With workplaces ranging from bustling urban offices to remote sites all over Canada, a workplace first aid response is the preliminary safety net, offering prompt care and stabilization until further medical assistance can take over. Though not every incident may require first aid, a considerable number could see improved outcomes with effective and timely first aid interventions.
In the sections that follow, we’ll guide you through what it looks like to create and implement an effective workplace first aid program to keep your staff safe.
Why is Workplace First Aid Vital to the Canadian Workforce?
Whether they’ve taken a tumble or gotten a cut, you’ve likely had an employee get hurt on the job. Maybe it’s even been something more serious.
Having an effective workplace first aid program ensures that when injuries occur at your business, there’s a plan and resources in place to handle it. It reassures everyone that if something happens, they are in good hands.
Legal & Regulatory Requirements
Let’s briefly explore the Canadian laws and regulations surrounding workplace first aid:
Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
Canada’s occupational health and safety standards are produced by The CSA Group and have been for over 70 years. Many of these standards are developed with support from the Canadian Association of Administrators of Labour Law – Occupational Safety and Health (CAALL-OSH), as well as the Government of Canada. CSA Group’s portfolio includes more than 115 standards such as psychological health and safety in the workplace and work in extreme conditions.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS)
CCOHS provides guidelines for aspects of workplace safety including:
- What should be in a first aid kit based on the size and type of the workplace.
- How many trained first aid personnel you need to have on hand.
- How and where to store first aid equipment.
- Record-keeping for any incidents that require first aid.
Safety standard non-compliance can lead to some hefty fines under Canada’s Labour Code. At the end of the day, the cost of setting up a proper workplace first aid program is way less than dealing with the consequences of an ill-prepared incident.
Building a Workplace First Aid Program
Creating an effective workplace first aid program involves the following stages:
Conducting a Workplace Risk Assessment
The first step in determining sufficient workplace first aid coverage is conducting a workplace risk assessment.
According to CCOHS, assessments should include:
- Identifying Hazards: Investigate all areas of the workplace to spot potential hazards.
- Determining Likelihood of Harm: Consider normal operations, review available health and safety information, and understand the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.
- Determining Action: Identify required actions to control or eliminate the hazard.
- Evaluating: Confirm if the risk is being controlled or the hazard is eliminated.
- Monitoring: Make sure the controls continue being effective.
- Keeping Records: Hold on to any necessary documentation.
Building a Workplace First Aid Kit
A well-stocked first aid kit is your company’s first line of defence when it comes to handling unexpected mishaps.
Every first aid kit should have the following staples:
- Adhesive bandages of various sizes
- Sterile gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Antiseptic wipes or solution
- Scissors and tweezers
- Disposable gloves
- Splints for managing sprains and fractures
- CPR mask or face shield
- Safety pins
- Roller and triangular bandages
- Eye wash and sterile eye pads
- Pain relievers (non-prescription)
- Cold packs
- A first aid manual
- Emergency contact numbers
Depending on your business type and hazards, you might need to add a few extras, such as burn gel, dressings, and specific antidotes for toxic material exposure.
Even the best-stocked first aid kit won’t be much help if items are missing or expired, so make sure to:
- Regularly check the expiration dates on items like pain relievers and antiseptics.
- Ensure all items are in good condition and replenish used supplies immediately.
Getting Trained & Certified
Individuals who are trained and confident in providing workplace first aid is crucial.
Remember, refreshing first aid knowledge is just as important.. Regular refresher courses ensure your first aid responders:
- Keep their skills sharp and response times quick.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and recommendations.
- Renew their certification as needed (typically 3 years in Canada).
Establishing Workplace First Aid Procedures & Protocols
Building a robust response plan doesn’t just safeguard health: it brings a sense of predictability and control during chaotic moments. Each plan should:
- Outline clear steps tailored for various scenarios (like falls, burns, or chemical exposure).
- Identify the role of the first aid responder(s) and others during an incident.
- Specify how to use first aid supplies effectively and safely.
- Detail the process for calling for additional help (e.g., medical professionals, emergency services) when needed.
Creating Awareness & Accessibility
Every person on your staff should know exactly where to find the first aid kits and who the trained first aiders are. Consider:
- Displaying clear, visible signage pointing to first aid stations and AED locations.
- Introducing the first aid responders to everyone.
- Providing a quick reference guide about the first aid protocol in common areas.
Additionally, regular drills and awareness campaigns can:
- Help employees internalize the steps they need to take in various emergency scenarios.
- Ensure that the first aid responders get to practice their skills and are always ready to roll.
- Make safety a normal part of the conversation.
Maintaining a detailed log of every workplace first aid incident, regardless of its severity, is of utmost importance. Records should include:
- Date and time of the incident.
- Details about the affected individual(s).
- Description of the injury or illness.
- Actions taken by the first aid responder(s).
- Any follow-up measures or referrals.
Not only does this keep you compliant with regulations, but it also creates a resource for understanding the health and safety picture of your business.
Reviewing & Updating Regularly
Conducting routine audits and updates of your company’s workplace first aid program ensures:
- Compliance with ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements.
- The effectiveness of the current first aid protocols and procedures.
- All elements, from first aid kits to trained personnel, are always in place and primed for action.
- Protocols are adapted to accommodate changes in team size, workspace layout, etc.
At its core, an effective workplace first aid program creates a culture where safety is the framework around which all operations are built. It’s about ensuring that every individual on your staff – whether they’re crafting products, crunching numbers, or steering the ship – knows that their wellbeing is a priority.
In the spirit of Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month (and every month), commit to making safety a consistent priority. Create an environment within your business where first aid is seamlessly integrated, where everyone is equipped and empowered, and where the wellbeing of every individual is prioritized.
Remember, in addition to saving lives, a workplace first aid program makes each individual feel valued. Here’s to healthier, happier, and safer workplaces across Canada!