Swift response to emergencies
With the correct first-aid training and equipment, employers can swiftly respond to medical emergencies and potentially save or minimise harm to an injured or distressed employee
Medical emergencies can happen at any point in time. Having proper equipment and providing first-aid training can ensure an effective response to an injury or emergency in those first vital moments while waiting for emergency services to arrive. The type of training required depends on the environment and associated risks.
Damian Taylor, training manager at the Johannesburg offices of St John South Africa, notes: “The most common emergencies would largely depend on the type of industry and the exact functions of the workplace. For example, where the use of hazardous chemicals is the primary function, exposure to these chemicals tends to be the most common emergency.”
However, there are a few emergencies that are common regardless of the industry, including:
• Cardiovascular emergencies (for example strokes, heart attacks and other cases in which the victim experiences chest pains);
• Cardiac arrest (when the victim’s heart has stopped and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is required);
• Diabetic emergencies (specifically hypoglycaemia or a drop in blood-sugar levels);
• General loss of consciousness (caused by all of the abovementioned emergencies and other unknown causes);
• Falls from a height; and
It is important for employers to be prepared to respond to these challenges. In some instances, responding to the emergency is straightforward, for example, running cool water over a burn to reduce the pain, or applying direct pressure on a bleeding wound. Other emergencies such as a cardiac arrest require more expert intervention from a trained professional.
While performing the Heimlich manoeuvre or CPR might seem simple, these techniques can be technical and when performed incorrectly can cause more harm than good.
St John South Africa offers level one, two and three first-aid courses, which are accredited by the Department of Labour and the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority. When determining the first-aid training required, Taylor advises: “Consider the personal level of first-aid skill, the industry and associated safety risks.”
To more accurately determine the correct training required, individuals can visit the St John South Africa website or consult the training coordinators and managers for advice on how best to comply with current Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act regulations specific to the company or industry.
Besides appropriate training, it is important to have a first-aid kit handy with the relevant supplies. While the kit can be expanded to include supplies required for the specific industry, there are a few basics that every kit should include such as bandages, gauze, burn ointment, splint, gloves and scissors.
St John South Africa has a range of first-aid kits available, some of which are designed for specific industries. Another tool that could prove useful in responding to a medical emergency is an automated external defibrillator (AED) – the device used to provide an electric shock to the heart during a cardiac arrest.
The shock resets the heart’s electrical system to allow normal rhythm to return. Having an AED on site is crucial as the heartbeat should be restored within three to five minutes for the best chance of survival. Fortunately, there are AEDs available that don’t require any training.
Ventria stocks the HeartStart range of AEDs that are easy to use. When a person collapses, it is necessary only to open the AED and follow the calm voice instructions. Even when unsure about diagnosis, it is necessary only to place the pads on the collapsed person. The AED will analyse the heart rhythm and determine the correct course of action.
In addition to being simple to use – especially in stressful environments – HeartStart AEDs can also deliver a shock within eight seconds. However, for the AED to be effective, it is important that it is well maintained. The Resuscitation Council United Kingdom and the British Heart Foundation recommend that AEDs are checked regularly. Ventria can also assist with all support and maintenance of AEDs.
Once employees are trained, it is important to revisit first-aid processes every few years as guidelines are updated. Taylor explains: “The field of first-aid training is a dynamic one with new treatment guidelines being addressed and instituted all the time. St John prides itself on keeping abreast of all the latest scientific evidence-based changes to first aid and emergency medicine.”
Current guidelines being reviewed include the use of long spine boards for restriction of spinal motion, resuscitation and choking.
“St John South Africa is busy with a comprehensive content review of all of its training materials and course content to ensure it is in line with international teachings, while also ensuring that the content adequately addresses local issues,” Taylor says. “For all the latest content and guidelines, join St John on an upcoming first-aid course presented by one of the centres nationally.”
As for the training authority’s plans for the future, it aims to remain current.
Taylor notes: “St John will continue to offer world-class training in first aid and OHS, while striving to be the household and workplace name in providing first-aid courses to the public and industry.”
Be prepared for any medical emergency in the workplace by providing employees with the correct training and equipment. It might save a life.