Whether you work hanging from electricity pylons or up a ladder, sat in the cab of a bus or filing paperwork in an office, there are always risks to workers. In some cases, some dangers may even be unavoidable, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is to be aware of the risks and prepared to anticipate and avoid them where possible. Sometimes, however, through mistake or sheer dumb luck, people can get hurt. This is why basic first aid is so important. By learning a few simple techniques you can be a great help to your colleagues until professional help arrives and perhaps even save a life in the process. This article aims to outline some basic first aid that anyone can use.
First Aid Algorithm
To aid memory and to ensure we look after the most important things first, there is a simple algorithm that anyone can follow:
Meaning Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
First things first, keep yourself safe. There is no point rushing to aid a friend in the road or across a crowded office without checking your surroundings. All it would take is a car coming the other way or a few chairs in the way to trip you to end up with two casualties instead of one and no-one to help.
Always look for danger. Some will be more obvious, such as fire, traffic or trains, whilst others may be more subtle like electricity, trip hazards or falling objects. Take a second to look around then carefully react. If you are concerned about a hazard that is harming your colleague, there are simple steps you can take.
If someone has been electrocuted, cut the power and push the electrical source away from them using wooden or rubber items only. If trains or traffic are a concern when calling 999 inform the call operator who can contact the police, Highways Agency or Network Rail to implement a response. If fire is a concern, be very certain you are safe to tackle the blaze with fire blankets or appropriate extinguishers before attempting to.
This involves two responses. Firstly, is the injured person responding to you? Shout for them to open their eyes and gently tap their shoulders being careful not to move the neck. If there is no response, this is often more serious.
The second response is yours to the situation. You are going to need more help and probably professional help from paramedics or doctors too. To ensure you get this in a timely manner shout for help from your surrounding colleagues and ask someone to call 999 (112 from a mobile) for an ambulance. Use your common sense here – if someone is well but has a small bleed there may not be a need for an ambulance but calling for a colleague to bring a basic first aid kit is always a wise idea.
If someone has a blocked airway, this will kill them before anything else. Therefore, this should be the thing we check for and correct first. Try to get a response. If they speak, the airway is fine. If there is a wheezing noise, they may be having an asthma attack and you need to try and find their inhaler. If there is a gasping noise, they may be having an allergic reaction and may need their EpiPen or they may be choking. Learn how to deal with allergy and choking in our guide here.
If you find that they are unconscious, you need to protect the airway. You can do this with a manoeuvre called the Head tilt, Chin lift. With one hand on their forehead and two fingers on the bony part of the chin, tilt their head gently backwards and push their chin up to clear their tongue out of the way to help them breathe.
After the airway, problems with breathing are the next serious problem you will need to correct. For a first aider, all we really need to know is if the casualty is breathing or not. If they are conscious and not choking, it can be assumed their breathing is sufficient for us as first aiders to not to need to do anything. If they are unconscious, tilt the head back and lift the chin and put your ear next to their mouth. Feel for breath on your cheek and listen for their breathing. Look down the casualty at their chest and see if it is rising and falling. If you cannot hear, see or feel breathing, you need to begin CPR which you can learn in our guide here.
If they are breathing but are unconscious, you need to put them into the recovery position. This will keep them comfortable and prevent them from blocking their airway with their tongue or vomiting into their lungs which can have serious consequences.
- Straighten the person out, putting their legs flat and arms by their sides.
- With the backs of your hands, check their pockets. Remove any items as these could hurt them as you place them in position.
- Kneel to one side of the casualty.
- Bend the casualties arm that is closest to you at a right angle at both the shoulder and the elbow so it looks like they are making a Native American “How” signal or a stop command.
- Take their arm furthest away from you and place the back of their hand on the cheek closest to you. Their arm will now be wrapped across their body resting on the opposite cheek.
- Using your other hand, bend the knee of their leg that is the furthest away.
- Holding their hand in position on their face, use their bent knee to roll them towards you. They should lie facing you with their head resting on their hands and one leg bent keeping them from rolling over.
- To ensure you have not closed the airway through the movement, perform a head tilt, chin lift and check they are still breathing by looking, feeling and
- Check their breathing every minute – if they stop breathing, begin CPR. See how here.
- Turn the casualty onto the opposite side every 15 minutes.
Circulation refers to the heart and blood vessels. If breathing is okay, problems with this are the next most deadly. If they are not breathing, it is safe to assume their heart is not beating, or soon won’t be. Do not assess pulse, begin CPR. If they are breathing, a further problem with circulation includes bleeding, burns and a drop in blood pressure from an allergic reaction.
With this simple algorithm, you now know the basics of how to assess a casualty you find in the workplace. Remember these key messages and you’ll be saving lives in no time. Check out our two further articles in the series on dealing with common emergency scenarios and on CPR to get fully equipped and ask your managers about basic first aid training for formal certification and support.
Need More Help with Basic First Aid?
ActiveHSE provides many publications and resources on Health and Safety, including basic first aid articles and training that can be tailored to your business. If you need any advice or guidance on which ones you need, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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