There’s no denying that we tend to only focus on the things we are meant to comply with. The COVID-19 pandemic mandated strict health and safety protocols which we all dutifully adhered to. But if we reflect honestly, we probably complied mainly to tick a box and to do the right thing.
How fantastic would it be to have the same attention focused on first-aid training within the workplace, in order to equip staff with lifesaving skills for critical situations.
While a once-off first-aid course can be helpful, it unfortunately is not likely to prepare one to respond confidently in an emergency. A life-skill such as providing proper CPR or other forms of first aid, requires life-long learning. This is a key pillar of corporate health and wellness programmes across many African countries.
A health or security incident can happen to anyone at any time whether in the workplace, at home, while away on business or simply when going about everyday life. With the rise in deaths related to non-communicable diseases in Africa, the chances of witnessing a heart attack, stroke or a severe respiratory complication at work is real. While the importance of workplace first-aid training is recognised in terms of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is clear that workplaces are changing, risks are evolving, and organisations are increasingly held more accountable in terms of their Duty of Care.
For employers across the world, ensuring their people are prepared and informed about the practical aspects of potential health and security risks, is an indefensible Duty of Care responsibility. The OHS regulations mandate that for every 50 employees, a certified first aider is required. Beyond these regulations, everyone in the workplace should at the very least be CPR trained, and an AED should be used within 3 minutes of anyone who collapses. This aspect is legislated in many parts of the world, however in the absence of legislation in a specific country-setting, employers should be ethically obliged to provide best-practice systems of care. It should form part of the company ethos, inclusion concepts and support principles. Companies who design their health and safety policies, and their wellness programmes with impact health areas, such as Lifelong First Aid concepts in mind, will reap the benefits.
The Benefits of First-Aid Training for the Workforce
Imagine a workforce that is able to confidently respond to sudden injury or illness, or to a colleague who has collapsed and is not breathing. A team of well-trained first responders will know that in some cases, CPR alone cannot save lives if performed without an AED. A person in cardiac arrest cannot wait for the emergency medical services to arrive, and the chain of survival needs to be initiated immediately to ensure the person has the best chance of survival.
Being prepared thus enables a critical first line of response to potentially lethal health issues at the workplace. Other benefits to first-aid training in the workplace include strong bonds between people and teams and the reinforcement of employer care. To work with, and for, an organisation which takes individual employee’s care seriously is powerful. Finally, it builds confidence as employees gain new skills and maintain these skills through regular training.
Businesses can become more first-aid focused by partnering with a health and wellbeing provider who can undertake health risks assessments at the workplace, and who can consequently develop programmes to address these risks and equip employees with means to react appropriately to them. In fact, International SOS has been helping several organisations across Africa and the globe with such programmes. We have definitely observed the positive effects of first-aid training within our clients’ teams, where they know exactly how to react if a medical emergency arises. As we commemorate World First Aid Day, my hope is that we can ignite a renewed focus and energy toward this life changing and lifesaving skillset, and reengage first-aid awareness for all regular South African employees.