Are you prepared for a medical issue at work?

Even in the ideal world, where every employee is safety-conscious and up-to-date with their training, medical emergencies can still occur in the workplace. Whilst most accidents can be prevented through relevant awareness training, sudden illness is not predictable. Whatever the emergency situation, are you and your colleagues well prepared to deal with it? Would you know what to do?

Every second counts when it comes to an accident or illness. Image: Canva/CFG

Having just voluntarily attended a 2-day first aid course and realized that much has changed since the last time I was instructed in the subject, it caused me to reflect on safety in the air cargo workplace. Not least, because most of the other participants were nominated company first aiders and similarly reported that it had been years since their last course.

Standards are usually regulated
Standards for first aid in the workplace are generally set by your national authority. They describe the legal requirements or guidelines surrounding the number of trained first aiders per team size, and the necessary first aid supplies, training, and equipment, based on the nature of the work and potential hazards.

ICAO, IATA, and EASA offer safety courses and/or medical manuals and guidelines, but a general first aid course can be taken anywhere and is usually offered by the Red Cross or ambulance services in your country. Even if your workplace does not encourage or offer this, you would do well to bring up the topic with HR, and ensure that – whatever the result – you arrange your own training. After all, accidents and incidents do not just happen at work.

Prevention is better than cure
Particularly work in the warehouse or on the aircraft ramp, poses a number of safety risks if staff is not properly trained, or if they are exhausted due to limited resources, or having to deal with badly built-up pallets coming in, for example. Not to mention, dangerous goods, forklift incidents, heavy lifting, etc. Training in all aspects of workplace safety should come first on any company’s staff agenda and be regularly refreshed. The usual recommendation is every two to three years for basic first aid, or every year for CPR training. You should consider the different potential risks in work environment and arrange the necessary training to counteract these. For example, learn how to deal with the many possible dangerous goods incidents. And since we learn through routine, regular practice scenarios should be planned or at least written/verbal reminders of how to deal with certain situations should be sent via regular, available communication channels.

Are you set up to provide quick, basic help?
Yet, whether you work in the warehouse, on the ramp, or in an office, medical emergencies are not just the result of accidents, they can also be due to illness, dehydration, or stress. Whatever the case, does your workplace have a first aider quickly on hand, and the necessary medical supplies or equipment to provide quick, basic help until the medical crew arrive? Does everyone in the workplace know where the first aid kit is kept? Are they familiar with its contents? Do you have enough trained staff on hand who know how to apply those supplies? And if so, when was your staff last trained in first aid? In an ideal world, everyone should be aware of the measures to be taken in the case of an injury or illness, rather than have the responsibility for immediate care rest on just one or two sets of shoulders, since what would be the scenario if they were both not there on the day something happens? Have you developed clear first aid procedures on how to respond to medical emergencies, are these displayed, and is everyone aware of them and who their local first aiders are? Are all emergency numbers clearly listed?

And how up-to-date is your first aid kit?
Would your first aid kit pass an inspection? Is it easily accessible and clean? Are you aware of what it needs to contain? Are all the contents still within their sell-by date? Do you have a functioning defibrillator (AED)? Enough supplies to deal with wound care in the case of cuts, scrapes, or other injuries, and prevent infection, or should more be ordered? In other words, enough bandages, disposable gloves, and antiseptics, etc.?

A safe workplace is a happier workplace
Quite aside from having to face legal penalties if workplace first aid procedures are not upheld, a working environment in which everyone is aware of how to act in a medical emergency, is likely to function far better than one where employees feel less safe. From a safety perspective, too: the more aware staff is of the risks around them, the more careful they will be in their work. Ideally, all employees should be trained in basic first aid, since the quicker an ill or injured person receives help, the greater their chances of recovery/survival and prevention of further injury. Also, the more people are trained, the more likely they will feel confident to step in when needed. Ultimately, it also creates a better company culture, knowing that help is on hand in an emergency.

Keep the information fresh at all times
However, as I stated at the beginning, make sure your employees regularly get to refresh what they know about first aid. Practices change over time, and if you were still taught about using biros to create tracheotomies for people having problem breathing or were told that anyone having an epileptic fit should have a spoon in their mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue, you could now be doing more harm than good. Those methods are no longer used.

And the era of technology – whether in the form of a multi-lingual, talking defibrillator unit or a smartphone that you can place on speaker phone while you administer help following the instructions of the professional emergency services contact on the other end – also creates better response possibilities.

So, invest in first aid training and thus in your team.

And if you have an air cargo first aid story or Best Demonstrated Practice that you would like to share with CargoForwarder Global’s readers, let us know in the comments below, or send us a LinkedIn message/email to



  1. LHR emergency incident response on the ramp is so laughable that
    My stomach hurts . If a medical incident
    Or major accident occurs a woman or
    Man turns up on a bicycle and gives first
    Aid who is a paramedic. Then this paramedic
    Decides what she wants to do either call a
    Ambulance from Hillingdon hospital or
    Give first aid then tell the patient it’s alright for
    Her or him to work his way to hospital themselves.
    I have seen people having there heads cut open while
    On the ramp and this bike paramedic turn up
    Applies glue to the and the patient is told to work there own way to hospital- while driving themselves in
    There own car . I can’t imagine having a heart attack on the ramp then waiting for this bike woman to
    Turn up she then triages me then send me to the
    Hospital in my own car .
    “What a joke “

  2. Health and safety agents use there authority
    On the ramp instead of looking at the specific
    Dangers of the equipment being used which
    Has defects .
    It’s no point in using your authority on someone
    We’re the equipment that he is is defective .


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