PPE, as we know, is the last line of defence when looking at control measures for hazards. PPE should be selected on its suitability for the wearer and compatibility with the task being conducted and other PPE that may be worn. PPE therefore can present some challenges to the first aider responding to an incident if they have not considered how, it may affect any assessments or treatment that is to be given.
PPE Training for First Aiders
Training is given to those wearing the PPE in its safe use, maintenance, and inspection, but have we considered providing training to First Aiders who may not use the PPE but must attend to a casualty wearing it? Does the first aider know how the buckle attachment works on a harness or how to undo a carabiner? Are they able to remove welding spats or do they know how to disconnect air fed RPE from the air supply lines?
Dependent on the PPE being worn, casualty assessments may be made more difficult or in some cases unachievable, so the first aider will need to consider the first rule in responding to an incident, which is safety. This means considering:
- Does the First Aider need PPE? If the casualty was required to wear PPE, odds on that the First Aider will also be required to wear the same.
- Can the process that was creating the hazard be stopped to allow for safe assessment or treatment?
- If not, can the casualty be moved to a safe place to allow the removal of PPE and enable treatment?
Once one or the other has happened, the first aider can then begin to conduct a casualty assessment which may include the removal of PPE. Breathing checks will not be able to be completed on a casualty wearing RPE so this will need to be removed.
Traditional ‘construction’ style hard hats should not complicate matters for a first aider as they are easily removed, but more complicated head protection, such as that that encompasses the whole head will require a more managed approach to removal if required.
Most clothing can be easily cut off a casualty if required, especially so if they are unresponsive or unconscious, but protective clothing such as chainsaw trousers complicate matters and may require some thought before attempting.
For those people working outside in inclement weather, or in cold units extra clothing layers provide a valuable level of protection against the environment but can make casualty assessment more difficult by restricting breathing or soaking up blood from injuries.
Whilst with the correct controls, training and supervision it is unlikely that an incident will occur, organisations should consider this within their planning and training.
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