How Can a Medical Emergency Happen?
A medical emergency can occur for a range of reasons, from unforeseen health conditions to unsafe workplace environments. Medical emergencies can be frightening for those involved, and it is important to anticipate all types of medical emergencies and to be as prepared as possible. As an employer, it is your legal requirement according to the UK Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 to maintain safety within the workplace, and this involves preparing for medical emergencies. Knowing how to prepare for medical emergencies and what to look out for is essential.
Common medical emergencies
- Continuous Bleeding: If the workplace is unsafe and an employee trips and hits their head, a head injury could lead to many complications, including bleeding. Thus it is important to understand how to control bleeding and to subsequently bandage or protect wounds.
- Falling from height: If you are working in a high-risk workplace, such as a construction site, you could experience a colleague falling from height. This could occur if protective measures aren't in place, such as a handrail. Moreover, protective equipment must be given to employees and the platform they are working on must be secure.
- Seizure: Seizures can occur due to many reasons which we cannot anticipate. Seizures involve an individual's body shaking uncontrollably and is often caused by epilepsy. As a first aider, you will be taught how to treat someone with this condition and how to act if a seizure occurs in the workplace.
- Heart Attack: We cannot anticipate when a colleague will suffer a heart attack, but knowing what to do if this does occur is important. Heart attacks can involve severe chest pains, dizziness and nausea.
- Breathing Difficulties: If a colleague is asthmatic they may have an asthma attack, and it is important to know where the essential equipment is to deal with such an incident.
- Slips and trips: Slips and trips can occur if the workplace environment is unsafe. An employee could slip on a spilt liquid which has not been cleared up or highlighted, allowing them to fall and encounter an injury.
What causes medical emergencies?
Medical emergencies are likely to occur more often if the workplace environment is not maintained safely and securely. If the office area is littered with wires and unsafe equipment, then employees could easily fall over and hurt themselves.
High-risk workplaces, such as construction sites, where employees are working at height or working with flammable materials, is naturally more dangerous and therefore could result in a higher rate of medical emergencies.
The UK government calculated in 2017 that the construction industry is the most dangerous, with a total of 64,000 medical emergencies in that year occurring on a construction site. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 stipulates the specific risk assessments that you need to conduct in your workplace to account for all risks and hazards that employees are exposed to. Conducting risk assessments appropriately and subsequently implementing protective measures against all risks will help you to prevent as many emergencies as possible.
Medical conditions which can instigate heart attacks and seizures are unforeseen, and therefore we cannot know when these medical emergencies will occur. However, being prepared and knowing how to deal with these types of emergencies will ensure you can help an individual if such an emergency occurs.
The surprising nature and rate that medical emergencies can occur at is daunting, but by preparing for the unexpected, we can hope that the workplace remains a safe environment for all. Training and knowledge of medical emergencies and how to act is therefore of the utmost importance.