One undesirable aspect of the modern world is that there are a lot
of hazardous materials that surround us. As a trained first aider, you may respond in emergencies that involve hazardous materials.
When responding in accidents that involve hazardous materials, you should remember one basic first aid principle: DO NOT attempt to rescue if the scene is unsafe, UNLESS you have completed adequate training, have the necessary equipment, and have trained personnel to ensure safety of the scene. A trained first aider can take advanced courses in the management and handling of hazardous materials. Although basic and advanced first aid training will give you an overview about hazardous materials, you would do well taking a hazardous material course.
Most hazardous materials are needed for the industrial manufacturing of beneficial and essential products. Even though procedures to ensure safety have been established and followed, emergencies involving these materials do happen. They usually occur in industrial workplaces, along railroads, factories, and on highways.
You should understand that as a trainedfirst aider,you will be equipped with skills in first aid and emergency care. However, you do not have the expertise when it comes to working around hazardous materials. You cannot go on and provide rescue efforts while your own personal safety is in question. Continuing education and special training is necessary to understand hazardous materials, to ensure scene safety, and to work at accident scenes involving hazardous materials. Without proper knowledge and training, you cannot judge the state of a container or the possibility of an explosion. Moreover, you cannot effectively use safety equipment unless you are trained and know how to actually use it.
In accidents involving hazardous materials, a trained first aider may be able to do nothing but to keep bystanders safe, stay in a safe distance, and wait for experts to handle hazardous materials. Your initial goal is to establish a safe zone. Make sure to keep unauthorized persons away from this zone. If possible, try to convince people to leave the immediate area. Call for help from local authorities that can best handle the situation, such as firefighters, special rescue personnel, hazardous materials experts, and law enforcement officers to control crowd. If the accident occurred at an industrial site or along the railway, you should notify the company. In most cases, the company can send in-house hazardous material experts.
A trained first aider should also note helpful information about the accident, including the type of hazardous material;specific identification of the material, if possible; approximate amount of material at the scene; current state of the material, if it’s leaking, in flames, or contained; duration of the incident; other potential hazards at the scene; and estimated number of victims. Be ready to provide this information when you call for help.
However, do not go near the hazardous material to obtain this information. Possible sources information includes factory or railroad personnel, vehicle driver, and sometimes bystanders. The best way is to look for placards which often contain the identification of the materials.