CPR is a frequently overlooked life-saving skill within the construction industry. While occupations with an explicit duty of care like lifeguards and nannies have an expectation of knowing how to perform CPR and First Aid training. In reality, everyone can benefit equally from such training since it can be used to quickly assess and treat injuries that could easily become fatal without immediate attention.
In fact, OSHA’s loose guidelines for the construction industry indirectly require some form of CPR or first aid training. Their verbiage includes phrases like the need to have an emergency services center within “near proximity to the workplace.” Severe accidents may mean that “near proximity” for life-threatening injuries cannot be reliably provided by EMT services since the window of action closes within minutes.
For these reasons, employers, supervisors and on-shift workers have strong moral, ethical and possibly legal obligations to have at least one person on-site at all times that can administer first aid and who knows how to perform CPR.
Why Teach Your Workers How to Perform CPR?
In a 2007 letter to OSHA, an individual requested more specific information about OSHA guidelines for first aid training. In OSHA’s response, they indicated that there are no specific guidelines, but rather loose tests of “reasonably accessible” emergency services available “in near proximity to the workplace.”
For occupations like office work, these tests may mean that having an emergency department within five miles could suffice, but OSHA takes care to point out that the construction industry could be different. Since construction work regularly encounters risks such as slip-and-falls, electrocution, severe trauma or other incidents, “reasonably accessible” care and “near proximity” should be interpreted as needing on-site care in serious incidents. As they put it: “first aid treatment must be provided within the first few minutes to avoid permanent medical impairment or death.” Therefore, having individuals trained in CPR and first aid treatment on site can be reasonably expected during work where serious injury is probable.
Examples of individuals taking actions to save the lives of their co-workers are not uncommon, such as a Missouri man whose quick, decisive response to a co-worker’s collapse likely saved his life. Going further, an Australian study found that broad first aid and CPR training improved the workers’ risk assessment and accident prevention capabilities.
When Is CPR Needed?
CPR is an emergency method of maintaining blood flow to vital organs like the brain when an injury victim has become incapacitated. Since CPR is meant to restore rhythm to the heart or at very least restore oxygenated blood flow, it is most appropriate to use in situations where the victim’s heart has stopped (cardiac arrest) or in which their heart rate has dropped to unsafe levels.
As a quick reference, here are incidents that may require CPR:
- The victim was fine one second, then collapsed the next.
- The victim is unresponsive to shouting, shaking or firm prodding.
- The victim was performing strenuous or stressful work when they collapsed or become unresponsive.
- The victim could have been exposed to an electric shock, low oxygen environments, chemicals or other harmful agents.
What to Do When You Think You Need to Perform CPR
Your first step to take when you think someone may have sustained a serious injury or become unconscious is to dial 911 immediately. The dispatcher may be able to provide specific instructions.
CPR is not something that can be learned on-the-fly during a potentially serious incident. You must either receive formal training or consult CPR guides in order to even begin understanding the concepts needed to safely administer the procedure. Individuals without formal training should perform around 100 firm chest compressions using their palms within a minute before checking again for signs of responsiveness. If the victim does not regain consciousness, chest compressions should be continued until help arrives.
Some contractors’ insurance policies may offer premium discounts or even reimbursement for employers who train workers in CPR and first aid. Consult your policy or research other available insurance policies to find the one that can help you save lives on the job.