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5 Workplace Medical Emergencies and How to Respond

Thu, 25 Apr 2019 10:06

In the workplace, just like anywhere else, things can go wrong and we can be faced with a sudden medical emergency.

Getting immediate help from the emergency services is vitally important, and qualified first aiders who have received training should be available in all workplaces. It's useful, however, for all employees to have a basic understanding of first aid – and this knowledge could save lives. Everyone can benefit from knowing what to do in response to a medical emergency.

These are five tips for dealing with some of the medical emergencies you may encounter in your workplace (please be aware that these are not a substitute for advice from medically trained professionals, and detailed NHS advice can be found here).

  1. Collapse – If you find someone unconscious but breathing, check if they have any other obvious injuries such as a bleeding wound. If there are none (and you don't think they have a spinal injury), get them into the recovery position and wait with them until medical help arrives. Make sure their airway remains clear and they're still breathing properly.
  2. Choking – If someone is suffering from severe choking (unable to shout, speak or cough), it's likely they need immediate help to clear the blockage. Stand behind them and support their chest with one hand, whilst giving them up to five sharp blows to the back – between their shoulder blades – with the heel of your other hand. If this doesn't work, administer five abdominal thrusts. Lean them forwards, pressing your fist above their navel and covering it with your other hand, and pull into them sharply, inwards and upwards. Repeat these processes until help arrives. Please note that abdominal thrusts shouldn't be performed on pregnant women or very young children.
  3. Burns – If someone in the workplace receives a burn or scald, run the wound under cold water for around twenty minutes. Remove any clothing (unless it pulls on the skin) and loosely cover the burn with a clean, dry dressing, or some cling film if it's available. Severe burns should always mean the emergency services are called.
  4. Electric Shock – Don't touch someone who has received an electric shock unless the power supply has been cut off at the mains, which should be done straight away. The emergency services need to be called at the first opportunity.
  5. Allergic Reaction – A severe reaction to an allergen, often called anaphylaxis, is a medical emergency. If someone in the workplace has such a reaction, use an auto-injector if they carry one and you know how to do so, and call the emergency services even if their symptoms begin to improve. Remove the allergen that's triggered the reaction if you can. Lie the person down flat and monitor their condition until help arrives.

These are some of the most common workplace medical emergencies. In almost all cases, if you're in doubt, it's best to seek medical advice if you find someone in physical distress of some kind. However, your immediate reaction is vital with time-sensitive injuries, and could save lives.

Emergency Response eLearning from DeltaNet International

We offer a suite of 5 minute short courses on handling workplace emergencies, including our course on Dealing with a Medical Emergency.

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