Recently, I have had numerous General Contractors, subtrades and even home owners ask me this question: Why do we need first aid coverage? This is unheard of in residential construction!
If you picked up the phone and asked Worksafe BC this question, they would give you a legal requirement for first aid coverage. They would talk to you about all employer’s legal mandate to complete a first aid assessment. They would point you to the Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines to First Aid and your industries assigned hazard rating. You would look up tables to determine your requirements based on your proximity to a hospital and the number of workers on site.
SURPRISE!!! Residential construction is rated a high risk industry and a certified Occupational First Aid Level One attendant and supplies are required on site if there is more than one worker on site. More than 15 workers on site requires a level 2 attendant.
The prime Contractor is always responsible for first aid provision. The buck always stops with the prime contractor. This responsiblity can not be avoided or ignored. The consequences for failing to provide first aid and an emergency plan are serious. Under Bill C-45, an employer can be held criminally negligent for failing to take all necessary precautions to prevent an accident on site or to create a safe work place. If first aid provisions were not made, there would be very serious legal repercussions in the event of an accident.
General Contractors are obviously struggling with this legal burden. Worksafe allows a General Contractor to delegate first aid duties to the subcontractors. If a General Contractor does not have his/her own crew, delegating to the subtrades is the only solution, unless the G.C. wants to hire a first aid attendant to be responsible for the site (yes, they are allowed to sweep too! They just need to be able to respond to an accident, so plan for a means to contact them in case of an emergency.)
Delegating first aid means that a General Contractor needs to follow up and ensure that the subtrades are actually providing a certified first aid attendant. It is all about the follow up!! There is no evidence of due diligence if no one has verified that the system is being followed.
Subtrades can be reluctant to provide first aid because everyone wants to avoid the cost and hassles of scheduling a certified attendant. This is understandable but short sighted.
Why wouldn’t you want first aid coverage on a construction site? Let us look at this from more than a legal argument.
- First aid is a critical part of emergency planning. The OFA 1 course is only a day course. An attendant will not become a paramedic in a day. That is not the purpose. The purpose of first aid training to be able to respond to an emergency in a level headed methodical manner. A first aid attendant is trained in the priority action approach. When there is a serious accident, people panic. There needs to be someone who is designated to take leadership.
- A first aid attendant is a natural leader in safety awareness. This person can be the team lead in organizing personal protective equipment and supplies. The first aid attendant can be trained to do other safety related duties and to be aware of hazards.
- Beyond the job related emergencies, a first aid attendant can be of service for unexpected events. Stuff happens in and around the job site. People can have sudden health crisis. There will be people on site (workers, engineers, clients etc) who have diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy. Emergencies happen with people choking, tripping or a car accident. First aid is a gift of empowerment in a moment of crisis.
- Be a pro show. Having appropriate first aid coverage is the sign of professionalism. Impress people.
- Let us address the cost factor. The OFA 1 course is one day long. It costs 90$ and your certification is good for 3 years. The benefits of first aid coverage far outweigh the cost factor.