Do you know what to do in an emergency?

Only one in 10 people know what to do should a colleague be badly injured at work, writes Roisin Woolnough.

Only one in 10 people know what to do should a colleague be badly injured at work, writes Roisin Woolnough.

A recent study carried out by St John Ambulance shows that nine out of 10 people do not have basic first aid skills. And, of London's estimated 3.5 million workers, only 33,526 signed up to St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross to learn basic first aid last year.

Organisations must comply with certain health and safety regulations in terms of first aid cover. Depending on the industry sector and the number of employees, legislation specifies how many first aiders are needed per site. "Offices are counted as a low risk, and computer personnel are in that category," says Elaine Reubens, training officer at St John Ambulance. "For offices of between 50 and 100 people, they need one first aider. They then need one additional first aider per 100 employees."

Some small organisations may not need anyone at all. However, Reubens thinks the minimum requirement should be higher for all companies. "Otherwise, it is not enough," she says. "Employers need to make provision for if someone is sick or on leave. Or they could be out to lunch when an accident happens."

Some organisations actually have more people trained in first aid than the legislation requires, according to Alastair Steele, policy adviser at the Health and Safety Executive. "Many employers have more than the minimum," he says. However, Steele still believes that both employers and employees need to be made more aware of the risks. "We support any initiative to raise awareness of first aid among the general public," he says.

After all, accidents can and do happen even in seemingly innocuous offices. "Trips and falls are very common in the office," says Reubens. "Say someone is going up the stairs with boxes and falls, or trips over a bin beside their desk. If you fall and knock yourself unconscious it can cause you to stop breathing. If that happens there needs to be someone in the office who knows CPR [cardio-pulmonary resuscitation]."

About 70% of heart attacks take place outside of hospital in the UK, and only a very small percentage of those people survive. US research shows that in parts of the US where a higher number of people are taught emergency life support there is a 30% survival rate for people who have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Many of the first aid techniques are simple once learnt, yet the St John Ambulance study shows that most people could not carry out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on someone who needed it.

How to perform mouth-to-mouth
According to guidelines laid down by St John Ambulance, should you need to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, you should first make sure the person's airway is open. Then place two fingers under their chin and the other hand on their forehead. Tilt their head back and remove any obstructions.

Pinch their nose, then give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. To do this, take a full breath and blow into the person's mouth until their chest rises. Remove your mouth, allow their chest to fall and repeat.

Check their pulse. If it is present, continue with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If there is no pulse, start CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).

To find out more about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and other first aid techniques, contact St John Ambulance and either attend a course or ask for its quick diagnosis guide. Alternatively, ask your company about first aid training.

www.sja.org.uk/
www.hse.gov.uk/
This was last published in April 2002

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