First aider responsibilities within all workplaces are very important and therefore it is a legal compliance requirement that workplaces have trained first aiders available at all times. First aid is a life-saving skill and therefore first aid response must be available within the work environment to assist with any unexpected emergency. First aid is recognized across the whole world as an important life-saving skill, so it should ideally be available to all people, especially at work.
What is a First Aider and what are their responsibilities in the workplace?
The General Safety Regulation from the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993 states:
“An employer shall take all reasonable steps that are necessary under the circumstances, to ensure that persons at work receive prompt first aid treatment in case of injury or emergency.”
A first aider either volunteers or is appointed by management to attend an accredited first aid course with an accredited first aid training service provider. The most popular course is First Aid Level 1, which is the course that complies with the OHS Act’s requirements. Once the first aider successfully completes the course they should preferably be appointed in writing as the official or appointed company first aider, and be available to perform the following First Aider Responsibilities:
- Be ready and available during working hours to perform good first aid level 1 responsibilities and duties as and when required;
- Check that the first aid boxes are correctly stocked and available at all times;
- Ensure that their first aid certificate is always valid and seek additional training before their existing certificate expires;
- Report and discuss any first aid requirements and concerns with their supervisor or management;
How to become a certified First Aider
Training employees in first aid needs to be completed through an accredited training skills development provider, such as Absolute Health Services. The minimum basic first aid course that is accepted by the Department of Employment and Labour is the 2-day first aid NQF level 1 course. This first aid course is aimed at upskilling employees with the necessary first aid principles, and theoretical and practical skills, to assist patients in emergencies until the emergency services or paramedics arrive. The certificates are only valid for 3 years and need to be renewed before their expiry date as critical skills and new treatment protocols need to be refreshed and taught.
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The types of emergencies that a First Aider might encounter in the workplace
First aiders could encounter a broad range of emergencies from a serious full cardiac arrest where a person’s heart has stopped beating, to a minor cut or graze requiring a small plaster. Across this broad range of possible emergencies, first aid plays a critically important role in the “chain of survival” and provides immediate care and first aid assistance until the emergency services and paramedics arrive. Listed below are some examples of emergency conditions and corresponding first aid treatment:
- Heart attacks and strokes are common medical emergencies, which may result in sudden cardiac arrest/death. The first aid responsibilities would be to perform good quality CPR to keep the victim alive until the professionals can take over;
- Someone is eating lunch in the canteen or at their desk. A piece of food gets lodged in their throat and they start choking and cannot seem to cough it up, so they start turning blue. You as a first aider can assist them by performing first aid abdominal thrusts and back blows until the food is dislodged. If it does not come out, then you will need to call an ambulance, start CPR, and find and use an AED if available;
- Slips, trips and falls are the most common workplace accidents and incidents. When these occur they may result in broken bones and severe bleeding. The first aider will be taught how to apply direct pressure to the severe bleed and also how to stabilize and support a broken limb. Direct pressure and stabilization are extremely important first aid responsibilities and skills;
Unconsciousness is a serious emergency caused by many different medical or trauma-related conditions. One of the most important first aid life-saving skills and first aid responsibilities is having the ability to turn an unconscious patient into a recovery position. This position keeps their airway open and protected in order to breathe and not choke on blood or stomach content.
The benefits of having a certified First Aider on staff
Within a company’s health and safety team, the first aider plays a vital role in emergency preparedness and availability to perform day-to-day first aid responsibilities when unexpected emergencies and incidents occur. The first aiders, together with the fire wardens and evacuation marshals all form part of a company’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans. This brave and valuable personnel assist with OHS act compliance and emergency preparedness peace of mind!
First aid keeps injured and ill patients alive, so Absolute Health Services thanks all our clients and delegates for attending our courses and for keeping their first aid certificates and skills current and valid.