June 09, 2016

WARNING: while there are no graphic images of gruesome injuries in this article, there is a picture of bacon which may cause involuntary salivation in some readers.   

Medical training for industrial workers, tower climbers, linemen, and arborists.


From arborists and rope access technicians to general contractors and ironworkers, industrial athletes work in hazardous environments, perform dangerous tasks, operate dangerous equipment. When things go bad (from natural disasters and mass casualty scenarios to auto accidents and infrastructure emergencies) industrial athletes are nearly always the first ones called to respond.

Being prepared with an appropriate degree of emergency medical response training is a critical component of today’s well-rounded industrial athlete. In this post, we touch on a few aspects of this broad topic in an attempt to provide some perspectives from which to think about your medical training.

Over time, we’ll provide more focused information on individual aspects of this topic, please let us know if there are any you're particularly interested in.

Landscape of common first responder training options




Certifications Received

Venue Focus

Wilderness EMT (WEMT)










Wilderness First Responder (WFR)



WFR, Adult & Child CPR


Emergency Medical Responder



EMR, Adult & Child CPR


Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA)



WAFA, Adult & Child CPR


Wilderness First Aid (WFA)



WFA, Adult & Child CPR


Adult First Aid/CPR/AED



Adult First Aid/CPR/AED


Location of Work Considerations

 first aid kit for tree climbers, arborists, loggers, firefiighters and chainsaw work.


How long will it take for help to arrive? The answer to this question will drive the type of training you seek as much as any other factor. Roughly, this breaks into two categories: 

Standard / Urban track: additional help will arrive quickly

  • Typically you’re operating in an Urban setting in a developed country
  • The incident cause is not wide-spread, thus EMS resources will have the capacity to assist you and not be stretched too thin by competing demands for help
  • Your objective is to stabilize the patient and prepare them for transport once help arrives.
  • Scope of practice is typically limited and well defined given the short period of time before more advanced help arrives.

“Wilderness Medicine” track: additional help may take a long time to arrive

  • You are operating in a remote setting or an area without a well organized emergency response system
  • The incident cause is widespread (e.g. natural disaster) and advanced resources may be too busy to assist you
  • Your objective is to perform a more thorough examination to determine all possible injuries and threats to life, stabilize the patient AND potentially plan and execute longer life supporting activities and complex transport.  
  • Frequently care in these circumstances may require improvisational tools and techniques as limited equipment may be present on scene.
  • The scope of practice in this setting tends to be necessarily more broad and can be much more complex.

Anticipated Mechanism Of Injury

Chainsaw, rope access, tree work and workwear for arborists.


As with all preparatory work, the value of our medical training will be highly influenced by our ability to anticipate the types of injuries we may encounter.

For example, arborists face several significant mechanisms of injury including frequent small to moderate size cuts from wicked-sharp pruning saws, abrasions and puncture wounds from branches and of course the constant threat of massive trauma from chainsaws. They also face numerous threats from insects and critters living in and around the trees and can have very complex rescue scenarios despite frequently being within quick reach of EMS. Going into a training with these aspects known can not only provide better learning context for you the student but can also help a good instructor tailor the presentations and practice scenarios to maximize your preparedness.

So before you decide on your training, make a list of common injuries and threats you’d like to be prepare for...and then make sure you present these to your instructor before the class --- ideally, before signing up for the class to make sure the material covered will address your interests.

Team / crew considerations

Companies operating teams or crews might consider requiring one member of each crew to carry a more advance medical cert. For example, minimum requirement could be that everyone be trained with an 8hr First Aid / CPR / AED course and that the foreman of each crew also carry an EMR or WFR certification.

Providing standardized med kit contents can also help ensure that responders will know what resources will be available regardless of which vehicle, job site or kit they might grab.  


Medical Kits

Bacon first aid bandage for workers.  


Speaking of med kits, keeping appropriate 1st aid supplies in the right locations is critical to proper preparation. (Yes, that is a bacon bandage shown above, and yes it did make me hungry when I put it on.) 

One recommendation, especially if you work in various environments / risk profiles is to create first aid “modules” which can easily be swapped out to optimize your kit for any given day. Creating a checklist for all kits and module configurations is key for making sure contents are quickly complied and complete.

What follows is a great example of a kit made for Wildland Firefighters that would also serve as a great starting point for an arborist, wind tech or general contractor. This one is available from Rescue Essentials. 






1  Pair Nitrile Gloves (Rolled, Lrg)

1  SWAT-T Tourniquet

1  Primed Wound Packing Gauze

1  Trauma Pad (8" x 10")

1  Flat Rolled Elastic Bandage (3") w/ Velcro Closure

1  Triangular Bandage

1  Conforming Gauze Roll (3")

1  Adhesive Tape (1" x 10yds)

1  CPR Face Shield


1  BURNTEC Dressing (4" x 4")secure using 3" conforming gauze

2  2nd Skin Dressing (1.5" x 2")can also be used for blisters

2  BurnX Burn Gel Unit Dose


6  Adhesive Strip (1" x 3")

2  Adhesive Strip (2" x 4")

6  Medium Butterfly Bandage

1  Tincture of Benzoin (improves adherence for butterfly bandages)

3  Knuckle Bandage

2  Gauze Pad (4" x 4", 2 Pack)

2  Gauze Pad (3" x 3", 2 Pack)

2  Gauze Pad (2" x 2", 2 Pack)

1  Semi-Permeable Dressing (4" x 4.75")

1  Moleskin Kit (6 - 2" x 3" Pads)

1  Tweezer and Safety Pin kit

2  Saljet Saline Vial

1  EMT Trauma Shears (5.5")


4  Triple Antibiotic Ointment Unit Dose

3  Ibuprofen (NSAID) 200 mg tablets (2 pack)

2  Diphenhydramine (Antihistamine) 25 mg caplet

2  IvyX Poison Ivy Cleanser Pads

3  Sting Relief Pad

2  BZK Antiseptic Towlette

2  Hydrocortizone Cream (1%) Unit Dose


Training Providers

Wilderness Medical Outfitters: based in Colorado and led by Master Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, Carl Weil, WMO is a highly recommended option for individuals and groups looking for training tailored to meet your specific needs. 

Wilderness Medical Institute: this is the medical training arm of NOLS. WMI is well regarded in the outdoor community for its WFR, WEMT and WFA courses.


Medical Supplies 

We'd recommend working with supply companies that focus on professional level first responder supplies; e.g. supplying military, fire, rescue, etc. as they will carry a wider assortment of trauma supplies designed for the significant mechanisms of injury for which industrial athletes need to be prepared. 


Rescue Essentials: online store with focus on first responder and trauma response systems

Chinook Medical: another great online store with focus on first responder and trauma response systems


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