What to do when there’s a medical emergency on the job

What to do when there’s a medical emergency on the job

  1. Most of the time, a day in the office is pretty similar: We show up in the morning, work for a while, chat with our coworkers, and then head home.

    But on rare occasions, office life doesn’t go as planned. Medical emergencies can and do happen, and your team will have a much better chance of navigating them if they prepare in advance. While it may not be fun to think about, implementing medical emergency preparedness strategies is important because it will help your team effectively manage a crisis. Here’s how to go about it.

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  2. Preparing for a medical emergency

    There are several ways to prepare your team in advance so they’re better equipped to handle a medical emergency:

    • Include emergency response procedures in the employee handbook
      This requires your company to think through the appropriate procedures before a crisis occurs. It also ensures that everyone onboarded to the team understands these procedures. Make sure to post a copy of the employee handbook in a location that is easily accessible at all times.
    • Attend a CPR/basic first aid class as a team
      Sure, this may involve a financial investment. But it’s worth it to know that everyone on your team is empowered to handle a variety of medical emergencies. Additionally, there’s some evidence that attending a CPR class as a team might improve relationships and morale.
    • Keep a fully-stocked first aid kit on hand at all times
      Not only is one required by OSHA, but it’s also a great way to ensure your team can respond quickly and effectively in the event of (relatively minor) medical emergencies. Perhaps more important than having a first aid kit on hand is ensuring everyone on your team knows where it is. And be sure to replace materials as soon as they’re used so the kit is always fully stocked. Bonus points for keeping an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on hand.
    • Distribute a list of emergency contacts
      Make sure all team members know where this list is so they can easily contact the appropriate parties in the event of a medical emergency. This list should also include contact information for nearby medical facilities.
  3. Reacting to a medical emergency

    Every medical emergency is different, so different protocols may be required for different situations. That said, by definition, most medical emergencies require immediate professional attention. For this reason, the first course of action should be to call 911.

    Beyond that, here are some additional guidelines that should apply in the case of most medical emergencies.

    • Call 911
      It bears repeating: In the case of most medical emergencies, the sooner you call 911, the better. Make sure someone is responsible for dialing 911 before taking any other steps. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
    • Take a few deep breaths
      It may seem counterintuitive to pause (as opposed to flying into action), but taking a few moments to gather yourself will help you think more clearly and act more effectively. Before you start to act, make sure you breathe and center. It may be helpful to count to 10 and/or remind yourself that you are capable of responding to the situation at hand.
    • Assess the situation
      Are there any potential hazards that could be dangerous to the injured party or onlookers? (For example, if a person is having a seizure, check to see if they’re surrounded by hard objects that could cause damage.) If you notice any hazards, do your best to neutralize them. Be extremely cautious about moving the injured person, especially if you think there’s any chance they have a spinal injury. Only move the injured person if not moving them would prove life-threatening.
    • Assess the injured person
      Check to see if they’re alert, coherent, and breathing, and also confirm that you’re able to find their pulse. If they’re breathing and have a pulse, keep them as comfortable as possible and stay with them until emergency professionals arrive.
    • Be prepared to administer CPR until professionals arrive
      If the injured person isn’t breathing and/or you can’t find a pulse, be prepared to begin CPR. This is where the training outlined above becomes critically important.
    • Address the most life-threatening issue
      In some cases, an injured person might present with multiple issues. As much as you’re able, attempt to address the most life-threatening issue first. For example, severe bleeding or stopped breathing is likely a greater priority than a broken bone.
    • Assist professionals once they arrive
      Follow instructions closely and provide as much information as possible so they’re equipped to respond appropriately.
    • Notify the injured person’s emergency contacts
      They’ll want to know what’s going on and will be able to keep the victim company at the hospital or medical center.
    • Make a record
      Once the emergency is over, write down as accurately as possible your memory of the events that transpired. (It might be helpful to collaborate with a few observers.) This will be useful if anyone needs to review what happened. It will also assist in planning for future emergencies.
  4. By taking steps to prepare for a medical emergency and learning how to respond if an emergency occurs, you’ll significantly increase the chances your team is able to effectively navigate this type of situation. To appropriate the old saying, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of emergency response.

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What to do when there’s a medical emergency on the job