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Teaching Health and Safety: Preparing Staff for the Unexpected
Preparing camp counselors for their role as staff members, community leaders, and knowledgeable caregivers is a daunting task. Many staff members are themselves students or adolescents unsure of the aspects of camp wellness, and they bring different beliefs and varied backgrounds to camp. As a camp director or administrator, you must teach them the importance of proper procedures when it comes to safety, OSHA, and dealing with daily camp health issues.
Getting your health and safety message across to camp staff requires that you understand the learner. Young people see themselves as invulnerable. They rest easy with a self-determined sense that they are safe from diseases. You need to recognize this so that your training will accomplish the difficult feat of respecting their personal opinions and self-esteem while translating the correct information in a format that serves to protect and assist campers.
Some staff may already know current OSHA and first-aid standards, but looking at the big picture, how are you going to implement the safety procedures necessary to ensure a healthy summer?
Build Awareness Before Camp Begins
Inform your staff in precamp interviews, information letters, and orientation exercises that health and safety issues are included in the scope of things they need to learn about camp. Establish a format where staff feels comfortable expressing ideas and concerns while simultaneously learning proper procedures experientially.
Introduce camp wellness during interviews
Staff orientation provides the perfect opportunity to teach OSHA requirements in a cooperative atmosphere by using concrete examples that lend themselves to successful safety training. The OSHA portion of precamp training should begin with a written true/false test. This test usually quiets the room as staff members will quickly realize that typical camp medical situations can be more complicated than anticipated. When staff members have had the opportunity to complete the test, review the answers with the group and discuss the questions.
Expand knowledge with role-playing
To enhance this concept, show a video (e.g., Coastal Video C "A Lesson to Live By") depicting common incidents and their recommended treatment. Also, seek out and incorporate new training material on a regular basis.
Review basic first aid
In the first few days of
Here is an example of a typical test question to ask the group: "The first thing you do for a bee sting is scratch it with your fingernail — true or false?" Let them all answer at once so that a pattern of participation will be established prior to asking more complicated questions. Give them correct answer (false) and follow up with role play to determine the appropriate procedures and considerations:
Teach personal safety and care
Minimize Potential Problems
Offering first-aid and CPR classes is good for a general knowledge base, but staff need to have basic first-aid equipment readily available. One way to resolve this problem is to have each staff member carry with them a fanny pack specifically filled with items that they can use on a daily basis for minor and routine care. This creates a uniform system of care for all health-related issues, and staff can deal with each incident promptly with minimal patient embarrassment. The contents of the packs should include: plastic bandages, disposable gloves, a pencil, accident reports, after-bite, antiseptic towelettes, eye drops, etc.
Depending on your health care plan, a follow-up trip to your health care professional may or may not be required. The end result is that both staff and campers have realistic expectations that proper procedures will be followed each time medical issues arise.
Because we ask staff to do so many things in the first few days of camp, it is important that they spend time actually doing things that will cause them to act knowledgeably in a crisis situation. Here are a couple of practical examples that will help you to comply with OSHA standards while reducing stress in everyday camp situations.
Practice fire safety
Locate dangerous materials
Offering first-aid and CPR classes
Safety and wellness education is ongoing and does not end with the conclusion of staff orientation. Make sure that staff training sessions have a prominent place in your summer training schedule. Topics such as food-borne illness, safe food handling, protective clothing, personal chemicals, sexual harassment, understanding the basics of heat stroke, or being able to detect the early signs of child abuse are all issues that staff need to be familiar with.
It is your job to make sure that the emotionally safe atmosphere you are trying so hard to create at camp is supported with some practical, practiced, and predetermined techniques. If you conduct health and safety training in a way that teaches care and concern for all, you can better prepare your staff to meet the challenges of today’s changing times.
Greg Cronin, CCD is the director at Congressional Day Camp in Falls Church, Virginia. The on-site OSHA training is done by Helen Rebull, R.N.
Originally published in the 1999 July/August issue of Camping Magazine.