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Critical injuries: what to do in the first few hours

Critical injuries

It's happened. A worker has just sustained a critical injury. Your first priority is to get the injured worker immediate medical treatment, but what comes next? 

Marianne Matichuk, Principle Consultant for M. Matichuk & Associates*, outlined essential next steps in her recent WSPS Partners in Prevention 2019 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show session, "Are You Ready? Proactively Addressing Critical Injuries."

"There's a lot of work and emotion in the wake of a critical injury," says Marianne, including submitting a detailed accident report to the Ministry of Labour within 48 hours. "The outcome will be a lot better if you're ready."

Advance preparation includes: 

  • Having policies and protocols in place. Post the policy and protocols, and ensure everyone in the workplace is trained on them at least annually. Ensure everyone understands their particular responsibilities and include upper management.
  • Assembling a critical injury toolkit you can take to the scene. Marianne suggested including a list of emergency contacts, on-call list, cell phone and charger, flashlight, measuring tape, clipboards, paper and pens. 

On the scene

If you're a supervisor (or supervisor delegate), here's a sample list of tasks you may be responsible for in the first few hours after an incident:

  • Arranging for medical assistance. Call 911 for an ambulance if required and transport the injured worker to hospital.
  • Determining if a critical injury has taken place. Refer to the definition of a critical injury under Regulation 834 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As a general rule of thumb, says Marianne, "Treat every suspected critical injury like a confirmed critical injury until proven otherwise. Once you disturb the accident scene, you can't recreate it."

If you're the injured worker's immediate supervisor, your responsibilities may also include:

  • Accompanying the worker to hospital. You're the best person to do this because you know the worker and the job. Designate your supervisor or manager to follow the next steps.

If you remain onsite, your responsibilities may also include:

  • Cordoning off the injury scene. "Make sure that the wreckage is not disturbed and that there are no unauthorized people in the area," says Marianne. 
  • Notifying the Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) and others on the on-call list.
  • Notifying the Ministry of Labour once you've determined the injury meets the legal definition, or it is confirmed as such by a medical professional.

After the accident scene has been released by the Ministry of Labour, you and your JHSC can

  • Begin the accident investigation. You may conduct it jointly, or you and the committee may carry out separate investigations (and file separate reports). Tasks include: identifying witnesses, reviewing training and other records, reviewing accident history, taking photos, making diagrams, and interviewing employees and witnesses. 

Watch for Marianne's insights on interviewing witnesses, helping traumatized workers, and assembling your report in the next issue of WSPS eNews.

How we can help

* Now a consultant based in Sudbury, Marianne Matichuk has also served as an environment, health and safety manager, a safety supervisor, mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury, and chief administrative officer of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety & Health. Conact Marianne.