|The Organization of First Aid in the Workplace (ILO, 1999, 70 p.)|
The incidence of occupational injury or illness has remained high throughout the world in spite of efforts to make work increasingly safe and healthy. In 1997 it was estimated that each year 330,000 workers meet their deaths and 250 million are injured in occupational accidents, while in the late 1980s it had been estimated that 180,000 workers were killed and 110 million injured. The human suffering, the social problems and the economic costs implicit in these figures are very large. However, the figures can hardly express the consequences of an accident for the worker and his or her family. If first aid is immediately available following an accident, these consequences can be reduced. Effective first aid can enhance the chances for survival, minimize the duration of medical treatment and reduce permanent health impairment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 155), and Recommendation (No. 164), adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1981, are major instruments for making work safer. The Occupational Health Services Convention (No. 161), and Recommendation (No. 171), both adopted in 1985, provide for the progressive development of occupational health services for all workers. First-aid and emergency treatment in cases of accident and indisposition of workers at the workplace are listed as an important part of the functions of these services.
National legislation concerning first aid, and institutional arrangements to supervise its implementation in all enterprises, are essential. While the responsibility for organizing first aid lies with the employer, it is necessary that the workers should participate. This aspect of participation should be seen in the context of primary health care, which gives the individual an important role in the protection and the promotion of his or her own health.
First aid is part of total health care for workers. In practice, it will depend to a large extent on persons available in the immediate vicinity of the accident, and who have been trained to perform specific first-aid tasks, supported by medical resources whenever necessary. This concept, which is also consistent with the principle of primary health care, assumes that first aid is an immediate, though initial, intervention followed by specialized medical care whenever needed.
As many countries have organized first aid over a long period, substantial experience of its technical, medical and organizational aspects is available. This monograph shows, in the light of this experience, how first aid may be organized, and reviews how an organization for first aid may be designed taking into account the many factors involved. Information is also provided on first-aid personnel, including training; the necessary equipment, supplies and facilities; and the arrangements required beyond first aid for accidents that call for specialized medical care.
The International Labour Office wishes to thank Dr. B. H. Dieterich for his contribution to the preparation of this monograph. It was prepared with the intention of providing information, guidance and basic reference materials to public authorities, employers, workers, safety and health committees and in general to all persons in charge of occupational safety and health at the enterprise level.