On our campus we have a very small health center that is only for students (not staff) and does not have doctors on staff. It mostly deals with STDs and minor health issues as well as mental health. The staff there is booked solid and do not have time to leave their office or even to squeeze somebody in if they were walked over there.
We do have some staff trained in first response in the athletic department as well as security. Our policy is to call 911 and security. Any chemical exposure should have an MSDS sent with the victim in the ambulance (sirens or not). We are fortunate enough to have a Trauma I hospital and a toxicology department within 10 miles of us. Always call the hospital ER to alert them that a chemical exposure case will be arriving so they can summon the proper staff (toxicologist on call) and equipment. They will also need to know if decontamination (clothing) is necessary or if radiation is involved.
Do not let anybody transport the victim in a personal car. What if the victim passes out, gets into a panic, starts screaming? What if the driver gets in a car accident? It is best to call 911 and let the EMTs transport (even if it embarrasses the victim). My philosophy is I would rather embarrass the victim than to embarrass myself and employer by not responding with appropriate follow-up care. I cannot afford to lose my job or be the topic of bad press either.
Do not do what the student wants you to do (write it off as a minor incident) but do what that student's mother expects you to do...get it checked out and OK'ed by a doctor immediately, not tomorrow or the week after it becomes a serious health issue.
The incident report must be filed within 24 hours and would look awful if there were no follow up because the student was too embarrassed to get things checked by a professional at no cost to them. How can we claim we have a safety culture and then let the student decide whether they want to go see a doctor or not. Logic should rule, not emotion.
Laboratory Materials Supervisor
1600 Grand Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
NAOSMM president July 2011-July 2013
My university is currently involved in discussions concerning how to medically respond to chemical exposures. Our health center is currently only for routine illness and injury among students. On one hand we have the opinion that the best course of action is to do what we can (remove and rinse if appropriate) and call the EMTs. On the other hand, we have the opinion that the health center should become more robust or that we should either hire trained emergency personnel or train all our personnel to be emergency personnel.
I wanted to poll the academic members and see (1) what role does your campus health center play; (2) what role do your lab personnel play; and (3) who are your emergency responders?
What I have been able to find online all seems to point to a policy of lab people rendering basic first aid and calling the EMTs.
Right now our policy has become to bypass the student health center, since they are not equipped to handle chemical exposures, and call the EMTs. This is raising concern among our lab personnel, who consistently have the question of what is minor that we can deal with ourselves and what is major enough to call an ambulance. The university stance is "when in doubt, call", but the personnel seem to want more guidance. The problem is that every chemical exposure is different because every chemical is different, so we really can't provide hard and fast guidelines.
Thanks in advance,
Dr. Karalyn (Karen) Humphrey
Laboratory Coordinator, Department Safety Officer & Part-Time Lecturer
Baylor University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Office: BSB E.111
"Vast worlds lie within the hollows of each atom, multifarious as the motes in a sunbeam." ~Yoga Vasishtha
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