Last updated: 16.08.19

The Principles and Practices of First Aid

Does your workplace have a dedicated first aider?

Whenever an accident occurs where someone is injured, it’s crucial that they receive immediate assistance or treatment. This is in order to prevent further complications and keeps the victim stable before a qualified medical professional arrives, if necessary.

A quick response is needed whether it is a minor casualty or a more major one, as the first moments after someone is injured can dictate how the rest of the situation unfolds.

If you’re in the workplace, you will need to have designated first aiders on site who can respond promptly to any accidents and take charge of a situation.

We’ve put together a more detailed outline of the benefits of first aid as well as how first aid can be practically applied in an emergency.

Principles of First Aid

Preserve Life

The first aim of first aid is to preserve life, which involves the key emergency practices to ensure that the casualty isn’t in any mortal danger. Remember though, this includes preserving your own life as you shouldn’t put yourself in danger in order to apply first aid. Its at this stage where you should do a quick risk assessment to check for dangers to the injured person, yourself or bystanders which could cause the situation to escalate. If in doubt, do not attempt to apply first aid and immediately call for a medical professional.

Prevent Deterioration

Once you’ve followed all the steps associated with the first principle, your next priority is to prevent deterioration of the injured person’s condition. Keeping a casualty still to avoid aggravating their injury, or from complicating any unseen issues, is crucial. This helps prevent to further injuries, and clearing the area of any immediate dangers will help you to do so.

Promote Recovery

Finally, there are steps you should follow which will help lessen the amount of time taken for a casualty to recover from an accident and aid in minimising lasting damage and scarring. The prime example of this is applying cold water to a burn as soon as possible to lower the chance of long-term scarring and helps speed up the healing process.

First Aid Practices

Taking immediate action

This is the key to the ‘Preserving Life’ principle – a quick response to an accident can save lives and minimise the risk that things get worse. If someone needs help, either from an injury or sickness, you shouldn’t hesitate to help if possible.

Calming down the situation

First aiders should be able to remain calm under pressure and help reduce the overall stress levels of the injured person as well as other people who may be concerned. Reassurance can provide more support that you might expect in an emergency situation and help people make the right decisions.

Calling for medical assistance

Make sure to get a hold of the emergency services by calling 999 as soon as possible, either by calling directly yourself or asking a bystander to do so if you’re preoccupied handing the injury. This will ensure that a medical professional arrives quickly to handle the situation in a more comprehensive manner and provide more specialist treatment.

Apply the relevant treatment

Before a medical professional does arrive, you will need to apply first aid treatments in order to stabilise the condition of the injured person. This comes under the ‘preserve life’ banner, and follows this flow of procedures:

  • Check for consciousness
  • Open the airway
  • Check for breathing Follow airway, breathing, of resuscitation, administer CPR if needed
  • Check for circulation
  • Check for bleeding, controlling any major bleeding

There are a number treatments which correspond to the different problems that might arise as you work through this list, e.g. CPR, applying a tourniquet, running a burn under cold water, etc.

First Aid Legislation

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), employers are responsible for making sure that their workplace has a health and safety policy. This should include arrangements for first aid.

Employers should also be aware of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981. This places a responsibility on all employers (no matter the size of their business) to provide adequate resources to those who are injured at work. This includes ensuring there is equipment, facilities and first aiders who have had appropriate training.

If you’re interested in finding out more about first aid and the different treatments which can be needed in an emergency situation, take a look at our online first aid course which covers everything you need to know about first aid including what you’ll need in a first aid kit.

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