Knowing the Basics Can Mean Everything

A little first-aid knowledge can go a long way when accidents happen on the job

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Most of us have been to the emergency room a time or two. We depend on quick access to medical care when faced with emergencies, but what if you’re on a remote job site or in the shop by yourself and unable to reach the phone? Knowing the basics of first aid makes a big difference when proper professional care isn’t readily at hand.

When I was four years old, my parents had a contractor putting an addition on the family home. One day while they were working, I swung the hammer I was carrying at the handle on the screen door to pop it open. The hammer slipped off the door handle and punched through the door’s glass pane.

A large piece of glass dropped down and sliced deep into the soft underside of my forearm and wrist and stuck there. The severity and location of the wound were such that I easily could have bled to death. Thankfully, one of the men working that day knew how to handle the situation, and a neighbor got me to the hospital quickly, or I may not be writing these words today. The substantial scar on my arm is still a good reminder of how not to open a glass door.

If something similar happened to you while you were working alone, would you know what to do?

In some situations, knowing what not to do can be just as important. One summer when I was 21 and working as a mason tender, one of the guys on the crew went to pull a level line that was fastened to the opposite end of the newly erected wall with a concrete nail. The nail was anchored tightly, and when it finally gave way, it snapped back with force and lodged directly in his eye. It nearly blinded that eye permanently, and likely would have if he or one of the other guys on the site had tried to pull it out.

Fortunately, they were smart enough to leave it alone and rush him to the hospital. It wasn’t so much that anyone on the job knew how to treat a nail in the eyeball, but they knew enough to not mess with it and get him to someone who could treat the injury properly.

First-aid training is all about being prepared, so you can respond properly when these situations inevitably arise.

The American Red Cross is one of the largest providers of first-aid certification in the United States. The organization works closely with OSHA to increase workplace safety through the Alliance Program. At its core, this program recognizes the high value of promoting safe and healthy workplaces and providing employees with information, guidance and access to training resources. In particular, the Alliance focuses on emergency preparedness, disease prevention education, and first-aid training.

One course of special interest to contractors who even occasionally work in the country or remote areas is Wilderness and Remote First Aid. The course teaches the skills you need to respond to an emergency when help may be delayed. Topics include primary and secondary assessments; head, neck and spinal injuries; heat-related emergencies and hypothermia; altitude-related illnesses, allergies and anaphylaxis; bone and joint injuries and burns; and wounds and wound infection.

The course is based on the Boy Scouts of America Wilderness First Aid Curriculum and Doctrine Guidelines and offers enhanced content and topics to meet OSHA’s Best Practices for Workplace First Aid Training Programs.

Would you know what to do if one of your employees were struck in the head by a backhoe bucket 45 miles away from the nearest hospital? Training your employees on first-aid practices won’t prevent injuries, but it could prevent an injury from becoming much worse. It could also save a life, maybe your own.

The Red Cross offers training courses all across the country at a variety of times and locations to suit most schedules. An easily searchable list of upcoming courses is available on the organization’s website at You can also call your local chapter for course information.


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