The best way to protect your business and your employees is to expect the unexpected. This includes anticipating and planning for situations that may require on-site emergency medical care. Although it’s unlikely you’ll be able to anticipate every possible emergency scenario, you can assemble and provide training for an on-site response team to address the events most likely to occur. A good place to start is by reviewing Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards that apply to medical emergencies and standards of medical care.

OSHA Standards of Care

The type of medical emergency determines how quickly response team personnel must react. OSHA medical and first aid standard 29 CFR 1910.151 says that for a life-threatening emergency such as cardiac arrest, choking or profuse bleeding, on-site life support services must begin within the first three to four minutes and continue until professional help arrives. With a non-life-threatening emergency, teams must provide first aid services within 15 minutes. Emergency response teams should receive first aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation training. If you have older employees or any with known heart conditions, it’s a good idea to purchase and provide automated external defibrillator training


Regardless of the type of emergency, medical procedures focus on three basic steps, which the American Red Cross identifies as Check-Call-Care. The first step is to secure the scene and check the injured person. For example, you might turn off malfunctioning machinery, find and turn off the source of a gas leak or secure items that appear ready to fall. Next, check the injured person. Starting at the person’s head, look for any cuts, bleeding or bruises. Feel his forehead for temperature, check his skin color and note whether the person is sweating. Check the limbs and torso for injuries and listen for signals of pain. Watch for changes in consciousness and look for signs of breathing trouble. If the situation is serious or life-threatening, the next step is to call emergency 911. Then, begin providing emergency life-support and/or first aid services.

First Aid and CPR

Treat non-life-threatening injuries such as minor cuts or burns with common first aid procedures. For example, cover open wounds with a sterile dressing and apply direct pressure to control or stop the bleeding. Treat minor burns with cold running water and a loose, sterile dressing. For serious emergencies, such as choking, response teams should know how -- and when -- to administer back-blows and perform the Heimlich maneuver, which is a series of abdominal thrusts. CPR is a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths that help oxygenate and keep blood circulating to vital organs. When giving CPR, the standard is to repeat a cycle of 30 compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives or defibrillation begins.

Cardiac Emergencies

The American Red Cross Cardiac Chain of Survival outlines a sequence of steps to follow if an employee suffers sudden cardiac arrest. Early intervention includes calling emergency 911, administering CPR and, if available, using an automated external defibrillator before medical assistance arrives. Making sure emergency response teams understand the Chain of Survival is critical because as the Red Cross notes, for every one-minute delay in starting emergency procedures, the chance of the person surviving decreases by 10 percent.