Words: Carrier Snider
Photo: A & J Fotos
Getting a job done in the masonry industry also includes doing it as safely as possible. When it comes to planning what the masonry project will entail, contractors must also include their safety plan. Basic first aid should always be at the forefront of a contractor’s mind to ensure everyone is taken care of in the event of an injury.
Experienced safety expert Bruce MacKinnon, CD Regional Health and Safety Manager, Region 8, offered five basic first aid tips that mason contractors can follow to keep their jobsite safer for everyone. They include knowing your risks, getting people trained in first aid, being prepared for sensitive situations, documenting all injuries, and keeping skills sharp.
- Know Your Risks
The first thing mason contractors should do is a comprehensive risk assessment, MacKinnon explained. An assessment includes specifics on the jobsite and the overall project, such as potentially hazardous equipment and supplies. This is to help the mason contractor understand possible injuries the works could have. From there, contractors can see what type of first aid knowledge they would need to know, and they can assess whether or not they have the right first aid equipment to take care of those injuries.
MacKinnon offered this example: “If you’ve got a group of construction people who are using a lot of rotary equipment like blades, or they’re using a lot of knives—people cutting carpeting, for instance—anyone that’s using sharp tools may have a higher probability of cuts and lacerations. So, they want to have probably more bandages and equipment in their first aid kit than what would be a standard.”
What are possible risks at your jobsite? What are possible injuries, and are you ready to care for them?
2. Get People Trained in First Aid
Depending on state regulations, mason contractors must have the right amount of people trained in first aid. Some regulations require facilities with a certain number of employees to have a specific ratio of first aid training.
“For instance,” MacKinnon said, “if I’ve got ten people on a job site, I’m probably okay with one person trained in first aid. But if I’ve got 75 people on the job site, maybe I need three or four trained first aiders. A 1:25 ratio is a pretty decent number.” For bigger sites, a first-aid trailer may be on the menu.
When getting people trained in first aid, MacKinnon stressed the importance of utilizing a recognized organization such as the Red Cross. Be sure to check state laws for any specific requirements. There are different training levels, and more in-depth first aid training is a good idea for mason construction sites.
How many people are at your jobsite? How many of them should be trained in first aid?
3. Be Prepared for Sensitive Situations
Construction site injuries are likely to include blood loss, and when that happens, those treating them must be extra careful. MacKinnon urged mason contractors to ensure that their first aiders undergo training about biological contacts. Typical large construction sites include people from different backgrounds who may have a bloodborne pathogen.
“So, there’s an accident, you come to the scene, and you have a worker that is bleeding very heavily. What is your risk as a first aider? If that person has hepatitis or HIV, or if they have AIDS itself, you are at risk of potential exposure to a bloodborne pathogen,” MacKinnon explained.
That’s why training first aiders properly and having the right equipment on site is so important.
“When I have somebody bleeding,” he added, “the first thing I do is have them hold the wound until I’m ready. During that time, I ask them: Do you have any known bloodborne pathogens or diseases or anything else that I should be aware of medically? And all you have to say is yes or no. I don’t need to know what it is.” The first aider can then protect themselves appropriately with the right gloves, gown, respirator, etc. This keeps them safe while they help the injured worker.
Are your first aid-trained people ready for this type of scenario? Do you have the necessary medical equipment for them to use?
4. Document All Injuries
While it’s a no-brainer to document more serious injuries, MacKinnon explained that it’s a common misconception not to report or document the smaller injuries. But why would it be necessary to report small cuts or scrapes?
“I have seen somebody get, let’s say, scraped by a piece of wood,” MacKinnon said, “and they didn’t do anything about it. They just ignored it. And then, two days later, they ended up with extremely aggressive blood poisoning because of bacteria on the surface of the wood.”
Another likely scenario could be getting cut with a rusty blade or stepping on a rusty nail. Or, if a worker is moving dusty boxes in a warehouse and gets a cut, the dust could cause an infection. In both cases, the initial injury could be small, but if reported right away, then a follow-up with a tetanus shot could be in order. Reporting the cut right away could include a follow-up of properly cleaning the wound as well as checking it regularly.
Because of what a small cut or scrape could lead to, all workplace injuries need to be reported to the supervisor and documented.
5. Keep First Aid Skills Sharp
It’s one thing to train people in first aid, and it’s another thing to keep their skills sharp. If long periods elapse with no workplace injuries, that’s great! But that also means first aiders may become less sharp at knowing what to do in different scenarios.
“For example,” MacKinnon said, “if I teach you today how to tie a figure-eight knot with a rope, and then I asked you to practice that for a week, every day, I can probably come back in a month or two months and say, tie that figure, right? But if I came back nine months or a year later and asked you to do it, you probably couldn’t.”
Certain skills, especially those that fall within the job site’s risk category, should be practiced regularly, so those skills stay sharp. These skills could include preparing a proper sling, preparing splints, or immobilizing a joint.
As part of a good first aid kit, MacKinnon recommended that all job sites include a basic first aid manual. That way, if a first aider forgets something or comes across an injury they are less practiced on, the book can walk them through best practices to help the injured worker until help can arrive.
A workplace injury is the last thing any mason contractor wants to have happened, but it’s important to plan. By following the five tips laid out above, those on the jobsite can be prepared with the knowledge and skills needed if something happens.