A couple who needed jobs in the latter 1990s have built up a home-based, first-aid supply business here into a growing enterprise that now serves more than 3,000 employers across three states and employs five other people.
Their company, Action Medical, is an independent distributor of first-aid and safety supplies to employers in Spokane and Eastern Washington, Central Washington, Idaho, and eastern Oregon. The products it sells range from individually wrapped bandages and over-the-counter medicines to burn-care ointments and wound-sealant products that stop bleeding.
The company's clients include operators of restaurants, automotive shops, construction companies, manufacturing facilities, farms and orchards, and government agencies.
Rod Knodel, who owns Action Medical with his wife, Brenda, contends that providing and maintaining first-aid cabinets and supplies at workplaces allows for faster responses to emergencies and also to the basic health needs of workers.
"They're important because they show that employers look after their employees, and it's required," Knodel says.
"If they have employees, a business is required to have first aid to take care of the employees on the premises for a minor accident or any first-aid need," he says. "That's under federal rules and state requirements. Usually, the state rules have to meet or exceed the federal requirements."
"Our first-aid kits meet or exceed all state and federal requirements," he adds.
Knodel adds, "It helps with productivity if the supplies are on hand, and people are not wasting time seeking remedies. Most accidents are caused by workers' minds not being on the job, such as if they have a headache or cold."
The company also offers as a service to check on, inventory, and restock clients' first-aid stations.
Knodel says he's noticed a recent trend of more businesses buying automated external defibrillator (AED) units, which are used to administer an electric shock to heart attack sufferers. He says the AED units range in price from $1,200 to $2,000, depending on the model.
The devices are more commonly found in public places, such as malls, airports, and government buildings. More businesses, however, are buying them from Action Medical to store at workplaces, even though they aren't legally required to do so, he says.
"We're getting more requests for the AEDs," Knodel says. "We've sold them to churches, farms, manufacturing facilities. The prices have come way down, and they're easy to operate. When someone has a heart attack, minutes count."
Today's AEDs are lightweight, battery-operated, portable devices that are easy to use, says the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute. The agency says sticky pads with sensors called electrodes are attached to the chest of the person who is having a heart attack, and the electrodes send information about the person's heart rhythm to a computer in the AED.
The computer analyzes the heart rhythm to determine if an electric shock is needed. If so, the AED device uses voice prompts to tell co-workers when to give the shock, and the electrodes deliver it.
The company sells some individual first-aid and safety products that aren't part of the first-aid kits it markets, including safety goggles, gloves, ear protection products, and the AED units.
However, Action Medical's top-selling item is a 17 inch-by-23 inch, wall-mounted first-aid cabinet with four shelves filled with multiple first-aid supplies. It also sells a smaller-sized workplace cabinet, as well as vehicle kits often used by companies with fleet services, such as trucks and vans.
Knodel says that in addition to the two of them working in the home-based business, Action Medical has five full-time employees who deliver Action Medical's first-aid supplies and safety products. Two employees are based in Spokane, and the others are in Boise, Wenatchee, and the Tri-Cities.
The prices for the first-aid kits range from $30 for smaller vehicle kits to $350 for larger stations, with the price including the health-care supplies inside the kits, Knodel says.
Action Medical also provides first-aid training classes for employees at workplaces, he says. The classes run about six to eight hours and follow material offered through Medic First Aid, a provider of corporate first-aid training programs, with a focus on standardized workplace training. A class costs about $50 per person for typically up to 12 employees, Knodel says.
"If an employee has a severe injury, the first thing you want to do is call 911, and then the cabinet is on hand to take care of the individual until the EMS or ambulance gets there," Knodel says.
He adds, "We serve companies with two to three employees to businesses that have hundreds of employees. If a business has employees, they're a potential customer."
For its first-aid kits and supplies, the company buys most of the products wholesale from Minden, Nev.-based Afassco Inc., which manufactures industrial-grade, individually wrapped first-aid kit supplies for industrial and commercial work sites.
Knodel says industrial-grade first-aid supplies are labeled as such because all of the items are individually wrapped and prepackaged per use to prevent cross contamination.
He adds that the individually wrapped packages also meet standards of the American National Standards Institute, a nonprofit that oversees guidelines that impact businesses and industry sectors.
Some common first-aid kit supplies include bandages, a wound sealant product to stop bleeding, cold packs, wound ointments, cold remedies, burn-care products, and over-the-counter tablets commonly taken for headaches or minor muscle pains. He says first-aid suppliers aren't allowed to carry anything pharmaceutical that requires a prescription.
While some of the supplies are for the minor headaches and injuries workers might encounter, other supplies in the cabinets can aid with some emergencies. One example is a plastic device called a mouth-to-mouth barrier, which is used for resuscitation.
"All first-aid cabinets are equipped with gloves and mouth-to-mouth barriers that have a one-way valve and 3M filter for resuscitation," Knodel says. "If someone is bleeding, you need to have gloves on hand to prevent contamination."
Beyond the common products, he says, the company also can furnish first-aid cabinets with special-order items, which for a restaurant might include more products to treat potential burn victims, as one example.
"We have close to 30 products that are unique or improved upon over other products in the industry," he asserts. "We have well over 1,000 products we have access to. We can custom make a first-aid kit, and we do on a regular basis."
The company orders the first-aid cabinets and smaller vehicle kits pre-assembled with supplies, but it can modify them to add requested items. It also restocks items on a regular basis as needed.
The couple says that Action Medical sales have remained strong in recent years, and the company's revenues are up this year. They say sales are up about 5 percent year to date after rising about 10 percent last year.
The couple started the business in 1996 and operated it for two years in Otis Orchards. They bought their current house in Newman Lake in 1998 and built a 1,500-square-foot freestanding warehouse next to the house to store supplies.
Before starting the company, Rod Knodel had worked as a sales manager for another first-aid supply company.
Brenda Knodel says she has an accounting background, and her husband provides the sales background, so they decided to launch Action Medical together.
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