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The Changing Face Of Office First-Aid Kits
The days of bandages and tweezers as the chief residents in workplace first-aid kits are long gone. While such likely suspects have remained the staples of kits in typical office settings, companies today should also know that items such as biohazard bags and breathing barriers merit a place alongside the aspirin and cold packs.
George Neubauer, a team leader for preparedness training with the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Red Cross, said when assembling a first-aid kit, companies need to think in terms of the potential injuries that could happen to workers. In the case of most offices, he said that preparedness usually means accounting for the treatment of a range of cuts or burns.
“A deeper cut, a more severe burn, or a sudden illness," Neubauer said. “How do you deal with that? Those are the supplies that should be on hand."
From kit to kit, whatever the exact setting, Neubauer said there is a fair amount of overlap — scissors, disposable gloves and gauze. As for the amount of supplies to keep stocked, he said, a company has to consider its number of employees.
Since the early 1990s, when the federal government put laws in place that required employers to provide a modicum of supplies to workers who volunteered as first-responders in case of an accident or other emergency, Neubauer said most companies have remained more cognizant of their kit's contents. Items such as safety goggles and breathing barriers for people administering first aid or CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) are now commonplace.
Also, he said, companies recognize the “inherent differences in the environment of a standard office, a warehouse, or a manufacturing facility."
At operations where there is a greater risk of losing a limb of suffering a severe cut, Neubauer said a list of first aid protocols should be followed for treating both the wound, as well as preserving the body part and disposing of the materials used to clean up any blood spill. Biohazard kits, which often supplement a first-aid kit, typically contain a higher quality pair of latex gloves, a body fluid encapsulant, a pair of disposable waste scoops, a biohazard waste bag and wipes and sanitizing solutions.
“Those (supplies) may not have been there years and years ago," Neubauer said. “But they're something that are pretty much a matter of course today."
Neubauer said regardless, first-aid supplies should be checked monthly as a matter of course, to ensure the necessary supplies are still in place for when employees use a bandage or take an aspirin in a non-emergency situation. As for expiration dates, Neubauer said the chemicals in cold packs are really the only items that ever lose their effectiveness over time.
For more information on stocking a first-aid kit, companies should click on the Health and Safety Services section of the American Red Cross' Web site www.redcross.org, under “Facts and Tips" the organization has links to the anatomy of a good kit.
Neubauer said he can be contacted for more information about workplace training, where businesses send potential first-responders to the Red Cross for training, who then return to a company and conduct in-house training with the rest of the company's workers.
By Alicia Korney
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