Would you give first aid if it meant risking your job?

This is a question that library staff in Fraser Valley, B.C, now have to consider after being ordered not to perform first aid in emergencies.

Imagine this question on a multiple choice test.

Q: You are working in the library and you see a person fall to the floor. What should you do?

A:    Nothing, because if you help them, you risk losing your job.

B:   Give first aid because it’s the right thing to do and you might save the person’s life.

Hmmm…. A or B? let me think.

Obviously as an employer you don’t want your employees to get hurt at work. How do you prevent this from happening? You provide training and appropriate equipment. When people are trained properly they are able to make good decisions. You need to trust that your employees have a certain amount of  intelligence and common sense. If you hired them you will know that they do!

A person who is sick or injured is very unlikely to be a danger to your staff and  people suffering with mental health issues including drug addiction are far more likely to be hurt by others than to hurt people. What about the person who is choking on their gum or having a heart attack. Are you really worried that they might be a risk to you or your staff?

And who am I to get so worked up about this?

I have owned and operated Safe + Sound First Aid Training since 1999. Over the last 18 years my instructors and I have heard many heartbreaking stories of lives lost and injuries and accidents that could have been prevented. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the words

“If only I’d known what to do, maybe they’d be alive today”
“If only I’d had first aid training”
“If only I’d called 911”
“If only…..”

I’ve worked with doctors, paramedics and firefighters, some of whom suffer with PTSD and depression as a result of the many traumatic experiences they’ve endured. First Responders have to live with the frustration and regret over the lives they were unable to save.

“If only I’d arrived at the scene earlier”
“If only someone had called 911”
“If only a bystander had started CPR”
“If only…..”

Fraser Valley library’s policy states that:

“911 may ask you if you feel comfortable performing basic first aid, such as adjusting the customer’s position or touching the customer. Do not! Your safety may be compromised as a result. Let the 911 operator know that you are at work, that this is a customer, that you do not know the reason for the customer’s behaviour and that you do not feel comfortable or safe performing first aid on the customer.”

All employees were required sign off on the policy, acknowledging that non-compliance could result in disciplinary action, including termination i.e. being a Good Samaritan might cost you your job.

Employers should not be able to deny their staff the right to choose to give first aid or tell them to lie when they call 911!

Whatever happened to the idea of “Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself?”

Denying people the opportunity to give first aid may lead to serious repercussions. I have spoken to a grandmother who found her grandchild dead in his crib, a woman whose brother was shot to death in front of her in the hallway of her home, a woman who tried to hold onto her drowning husband but in the end had to let go. These people will never recover fully from the trauma they have experienced and the frustration of not being able to save their loved one’s life.

When my son was five years old he choked and nearly died. Fortunately I was with him at the time and had the first aid skills to save him. Fraser Valley Library’s policy says that staff should not approach patrons in medical distress. Does this include children?

People have the right to choose to give first aid or not and library patrons should not have to start wearing bubble wrap!

Which first aid course is right for you?

Read Globe and Mail article here: Library staff in Fraser Valley, B.C. ordered not to perform first aid in emergencies

Gill McCulloch, Director, Safe + Sound First Aid Training Ltd.