Staying safe - health and safety in the workplace

Clay Technology magazine
24 Oct 2011

Accidents in the workplace are to some degree inevitable, especially in sectors dealing with heavy loads and machinery. Clive James, Training Development Manager at St John Ambulance, outlines the key areas businesses must consider.

Each year, several thousand people are injured at work. Most injuries are caused by moving or falling objects, slips and trips, manual handling accidents or falls from a height. Health and safety is relevant to all businesses, and the benefits of remaining compliant with regulations far outweigh the effort of doing so. By looking after your employees, you will ensure your business is protected, too.

A St John Ambulance survey of businesses unearthed worrying results – more than 15% had never completed an evaluation to determine the risks within their organisation. Yet, these assessments are the best way to prevent accidents and ensure risks are minimised, providing employees with a healthy and safe working environment. There are courses available to educate staff about the risks and regulations, as well as allowing businesses to manage their own assessments. Completion of such training empowers managers to perform their own checks without the need for a third party, so reducing the cost to the business and at the same time ensuring compliance.

Health and safety legislation advises organisations to have one or more trained first-aider on site at all times. A trained first-aider is someone who has an HSE-approved qualification, meaning they can adequately treat an employee with basic first aid in the event of an accident.

Applying first-aid can often mean the difference between life and death. For example, if a person is unconscious with a blocked airway, it can take just four minutes for brain damage to occur – much faster than the time it would normally take for an ambulance to arrive. If no one at the scene of the accident knows how to put the injured person in the recovery position, the casualty’s life could be changed forever.

When it goes wrong

In the event of an accident, there are a number of first-aid tips that can help you treat someone who is ill or injured. We’ve detailed tips that offer basic first-aid guidance for some of the common injuries, but this is no substitute for first-aid training. St John Ambulance advises all businesses to ensure they have the recommended number of trained first-aiders to deal with an emergency. 


What to look for

Before beginning any treatment, look first, do not touch. If the casualty is still in contact with the electrical source, they will be ‘live’ and you risk electrocution.

What to do

Once you are sure the contact between the electricity and casualty has been broken, check the casualty and treat any condition found. Call 999/112 for emergency help and be prepared to resuscitate.

Head injuries

What to do

If, following a blow to the head, a casualty loses consciousness for any
period of time, they should always be sent to hospital for assessment.  


What to do

Regularly monitor and record vital signs – level of response, breathing and pulse. Even if the casualty appears to recover fully, monitor them for any deterioration in their level of response. When the casualty has recovered, place them in the care of a responsible person. If they develop symptoms such as headache, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness or double vision, advise the casualty to go to hospital.

Warning: if the casualty does not recover fully or if there is a deteriorating level of response after an initial recovery, dial 999 for an ambulance.

Severe bleeding

What to do

  • Put on disposable gloves.
  • Apply direct pressure to the wound with a pad (for example a clean cloth) or fingers/hand until a sterile dressing is available.
  • Raise and support the injured limb.
  • Take particular care if you suspect a bone has been broken.
  • Lay the casualty down to treat for shock.
  • Bandage the pad or dressing firmly to control bleeding, but not so tightly that it stops the circulation. If bleeding seeps through first dressing, cover with a second one. If bleeding continues to seep through both dressings, remove and apply a new dressing, ensuring the pressure covers the point of bleeding.
  • Treat for shock.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.


What to look for

  • Swelling.
  • Pain.
  • Immobility.
  • Deformity.
  • Loss of strength.
  • Shock.
  • Shortening or bending of a limb.

What to do

  • Support the injured limb and immobilise the affected part.
  • Dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance.
  • Treat for shock if necessary.

Skull fracture

What to do

If the casualty is conscious:

  • Help them to lie down. Do not turn the head in case there is a neck injury.
  • Control any bleeding from the scalp by applying pressure around the wound.
  • Look for and treat any other injuries.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.
  • If there is discharge from an ear, cover with a sterile dressing or clean pad, lightly secured with a bandage. Do not plug the ear.
  • Monitor and record vital signs – level of response, pulse, and breathing – until medical help arrives.


If the casualty is unconscious:

  • Open the airway and check for breathing.
  • Be prepared to resuscitate if needed.
  • Support them in the position you find them, but if their breathing becomes noisy or you have to leave the casualty, they must be placed into the recovery position, laying on the side of any obvious injury. Care should be taken to support the head and neck while turning them into the recovery position.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.

Further information

St John Ambulance’s risk assessment and health and safety training courses: