Medical emergencies could occur anywhere and at any time, so it is important to be as prepared as possible for any unforeseen injuries or illnesses. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have the authority to investigate a workplace if they suspect that there is a lack of health and safety, and subsequently fines and prosecution can be inflicted. Therefore, to remain compliant with UK health and safety laws and to prioritise the safety of your employees, it is important to prepare for medical emergencies in the workplace through providing education and training.
Types of medical emergencies
- Heart Attack
- Diabetic Emergency
- Breathing Difficulties: Asthma attack
- Allergic Reaction
- Fall from Height
- Continuous Bleeding
- Sprain, Dislocation, Broken Bone
- Head Injury
Where do medical emergencies occur?
Medical emergencies can occur anywhere, and it is important to remain vigilant when you are in the workplace. It is vital to conduct and a health and safety assessment of your workplace, which analyses all the potential risks and hazards which are present. The nature of the work which takes place will determine how hazardous your workplace is, and therefore we can characterise certain workplaces as low-risk or high-risk.
If you are working in a high-risk workplace, such as a construction site, a medical emergency occurring could be more likely. However, this does not mean that medical emergencies do not take place in low-risk workplaces, such as an office. It is important to consider the different types of medical emergencies which can occur in each workplace.
Low-Risk Workplace Examples:
- An employee could trip over a wire and hit their head.
- An employee could faint and hit their head on a hard surface.
- An employee could suffer a heart attack whilst at their desk.
- An employee could suffer an allergic reaction due to a colleague's nearby food.
High-Risk Workplace Examples:
- A worker at height could fall from scaffolding and break a bone.
- A worker could become trapped under the rubble of a collapsed wall, whilst on a construction site.
- A worker could come into contact with a hazardous substance in a laboratory, causing an allergic reaction or severe burn.
- A worker could suffer a stroke whilst working in a laboratory.
Essentially, we do not know when a medical emergency will occur or where it will occur. However, if you ensure that you have first aid equipment and trained first aiders in the workplace, medical emergencies can be handled as effectively as possible when they do occur.
In August 2017, the Irish Anglo Properties Limited organisation were prosecuted by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to provide health and safety provisions in the workplace, which could have led to many fatal medical emergencies.
The HSE conducted an investigation which found that Irish Anglo Properties Limited had breached the Construction (Design and Management Regulations) 2015 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The organisation had failed to implement safety features to protect employees from falling from height and had not controlled the risks associated with fire sufficiently. The organisation was constructing six timber frame houses in Manchester when it was reported that the working conditions were not sufficiently safe.
The HSE investigation found a range of faults within the workplace, including a mass of combustible materials on site, a lack of security, a lack of provisions to prevent falling from height and no fire precautions in place. Therefore, the HSE prosecuted the organisation and prevented the work from continuing.
Therefore, knowledge of where medical emergencies could occur will encourage those in the workplace to prepare for all types of medical emergencies and to subsequently act appropriately.