A workplace accident at an oilfield sent an employee to the hospital with head trauma. But that was only the beginning of one company’s difficulties as it got ensnared in a legal battle with a state safety department.
Following the accident, Irwin Industries, Inc., of Ventura, CA, was investigated by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health in California (Cal/OSHA). The company was hit with several citations, but one in particular proved to be especially contentious.
The state alleged a violation of section 3400(b), which 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. Training shall be equal to that of the American Red Cross or the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration.
The company didn’t have anyone properly trained to provide first aid to the injured employee.
But there was a catch: No one had ever defined just how near the worksite had to be to a medical facility. And the worksite was only a ten-mile drive away from a hospital.
So was this close enough to have the fine overturned?
‘Think about the surroundings’
The judge had a tough call to make. Without any definition of “near proximity,” he had to decide based on the information he had.
He ultimately decided that the fine would be upheld.
The reason? Although the worksite was only ten miles away from the hospital, the roads leading to it from the worksite were bumpy and rough in many sections. And with an injury to the head, the ambulance would have to traverse these roads very cautiously. That adds even more time to the journey.
When each second could mean the difference between life and death, the judge said this company was wrong to not have a worker trained in first aid on the premises.
Had the accident taken place in a city or area with easily passable roads, this wouldn’t have been an issue. But it didn’t, so ultimately, the company had to pay.
Planning for the worst
No one wants to be in the position of having to respond to an emergency situation. But preparation for this is crucial.
Consider routes that you can take to get workers clear of harm. This includes briefing them on routes that they should use in an emergency and available emergency exits. Also, make sure that once they’re clear of a facility, they know where to meet up for a quick head count to be sure everyone has safely exited.
OSHA requires workplaces have these emergency action plans. These plans should be kept in writing and include:
- procedures for evacuations
- procedures for after evacuations
- procedures to account for all employees after an emergency
- procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties, and
- the name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
Workers should be familiar with these plans backwards and forwards. Consider having a training session to hammer home the point, and staging emergency drills regularly. But at the very least OSHA requires workers to be trained on these plans:
- when they’re initially assigned to a job
- when the employee’s responsibility under the plan changes, and
- when the plan is changed.
One strategy to keep workers on their toes: During an emergency drill, stand in front of an exit or walkway with a sign reading “Fire.” This prepares workers for the possibility of an escape route being blocked off or inaccessible and will make them think critically about committing the whole plan to memory.
First aid training
OSHA may seem to have unreasonable expectations in many cases, but even it admits accidents can and will happen from time to time. And it wants your workers to be able to step in to help should one occur at your worksite.
That’s why it insists on having first aid kits and equipment readily available on the job site. It also requires workers to be trained in delivering first aid so that they understand and are able to deliver emergency relief if medical help isn’t easily accessible.
Some good topics to cover include:
- the definition of first aid
- legal issues of applying first aid (Good Samaritan Laws)
- basic anatomy
- patient assessment for common injuries, such as burns, respiratory or cardiac arrest, cuts and abrasions, musculoskeletal injuries, shock, loss of conscious, eye injuries, amputations, etc.
- application of dressings and slings
- treatment of strains, sprains, and fractures
- immobilization of injured persons, and
- handling and transporting injured persons.
Depending on the industry, some topics may be mandatory.
But what do you think? Was ten miles too far away under these conditions? Sound off in the comments section below.