The Use of First Aid Kits and Fire Extinguishers on Our Roads

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In Ghana, it is a requirement that all drivers (both private and commercial) should keep first aid kits in their vehicle. Also, it is a requirement for drivers to keep and maintain a fire extinguisher in their vehicles in case of fire. For these reasons, The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (M.T.T.U) of the Ghana Police Service usually inspect these equipments in the various random check points or barriers so as to ensure that drivers are complying with these orders. People who flout the rule are usually fined or receive a warning of a certain kind.

Keeping first aid kits in a vehicle is not the problem. The problem here is; do these drivers know the reason why the first aid kits have to be kept in the car? I once had a conversation with a driver who about the use of first aid and the answers he gave me were very dangerous to say the least. I asked; why do you keep first aids in your cars?” he answered; “usually on a long journey, a passenger will complain of a headache or stomach ache. In such situations, when you have first aid, you just give the passenger some of the drugs so they can be healed.” I then asked again; “have you been trained to administer first aid?” He answered; “must one be trained before they can dispense paracetamol to someone complaining of headache? This is just an easy everyday job? These answers nearly knocked me out unconscious.

Administration of first aid is highly a trained job. When we are injured or suddenly unwell, what we want and need is someone to help us – someone who knows what to do. First aid is an emergency treatment administered to an injured or sick person before professional medical care is available. This should not be done anyhow. No untrained person has the right to attend or administer first aid to a casualty. Also, some people react badly or are allergic to certain medications as a result, one cannot administer drugs to someone without knowing their medical histories. A first aider cannot by their initiative administer drugs to a casualty. So the question is, why do we allow these drivers to administer drugs to passengers whiles on the road? Who takes care of the passenger in case the drug rather escalate the sickness or they develop a severe side effect?

In my profession as a safety officer, we are always advised not to keep oral medications in a first aid kit so as to avoid the temptation of administering it. Authorities therefore must come out clear to tell us what those first aids in our cars are for? Who is supposed to administer the first aid? What should be the content and when and how it should be administered and on whom. Until these issues are clarified and our drivers are properly informed, many people will continue to die on our roads due to mishandling and improper administration of first aid.

Fire extinguishers are also a major safety concern on our roads. Drivers keep these equipment with the view that when fire immediately erupts, they can fight it. Fire extinguishers look very simple but one has to be properly trained in its use or else risk their lives in trying to use the equipment.

Today, most drivers keep fire extinguishers in their cars for the sake of conformance. Knowledge on its use is very little. Even most of our enforcement officers have very little or no knowledge on the use of fire extinguishers. I once observed a police officer inspecting a fire extinguisher that has been out of service for a very long time but did not even realise it.

The use of fire extinguishers have to be part of the trainings the drivers go through before they are issued driver’s license. Among other things, the drivers should exhibit competency in all areas of firefighting before their licences are issued out to them. By so doing, drivers will know how and when to fight fires and when not to risk their lives trying to put fire off.

Achieving zero incidence on our roads should always be the target of the National Road Safety. To achieve such feat will not come on a silver platter. Both road users and enforcement agencies will have to be committed to working towards the achievement of zero incidence.

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