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Toolbox Talk - Week 46: First Aid - Medical Emergencies on the Job Bleeding

First Aid - Medical emergencies on the job - 2021.11
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This talk describes techniques to control bleeding so that employees who are not designated first-aid responders can act quickly in a medical emergency in situations when a trained first-aid responder is not available. It is intended as general awareness information only and is not a substitute for detailed first aid training.

Materials to have on hand:

  • First-aid kit

  • Gloves and other universal precautions to protect from bloodborne pathogens

Items for attendees to consider during talk:

  • What should you do if an object is embedded in a wound?

  • For how long should you apply direct pressure to a wound?


A serious cut or injury can cause major blood loss. Adults have about 5 to 6 quarts of blood in the body. Most people can lose a little blood and be fine, but the loss of 1 quart or more can cause shock and even death. Therefore, it’s critical to stop blood loss as soon as possible. Timing might be the difference between life and death.

For minor bleeding, you will usually be able to clean and bandage your own wounds. Wash your hands, then remove any dirt or debris with tweezers and gently clean the wound with warm water. Apply an antibiotic cream as directed on the packaging and cover the wound with a sterile bandage. Keep the wound clean and dry and change the bandage daily. Watch for signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, swelling, warmth, and discharge. Get medical attention if you notice any of these signs.

For serious bleeding, if you have been designated as a trained first-aid responder for your worksite, follow the procedures you learned during your first aid training. If you aren’t a trained first-aid responder, this brief talk is not a substitute for first-aid training. If a coworker is bleeding heavily, your first step should always be to locate someone who has been trained to perform first aid.

But if you can’t locate a trained first-aid responder during a medical emergency involving heavy bleeding, these steps could save a life:

  • Call for trained medical help immediately. Call 911 or another emergency number as appropriate.

  • Remain calm, and assure the injured person that help is on the way.

  • Put on gloves from a first-aid kit. This protects both you and the injured person.

To stop the bleeding, place clean gauze pads or cloths on the wound and apply direct pressure with the palm of your hand. Hold the dressings in place until the blood clots and the bleeding stops. Do not remove the dressings because you might restart the bleeding. If the dressings become blood-soaked, add more dressings, and continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops. Bandage the dressings in place.

If the wound is on an arm or leg, raise the injured limb above the heart to reduce blood flow. If possible, place the limb on a stable support surface, and keep it as still as possible.

If bleeding is life-threatening and does not stop when using other methods, tourniquets can help. A tourniquet is a tight band that helps to control bleeding by stopping the blood flow to a wound. However, you should only apply a tourniquet if you’ve been trained to do so, and it is only effective for bleeding from an arm or leg. Never remove a tourniquet yourself; only a medical professional should do so.

Leave objects that are embedded in the wound alone. Removing them could cause internal damage and increase the bleeding. Secure the object with clean, sterile dressings so that it doesn’t move, and apply pressure near the wound to control bleeding.

If the victim has an amputated body part, respond quickly. Wrap the body part in sterile cloth or gauze, place it in a waterproof container, and then lay the container on a bed of ice. Rush it to the hospital with the injured victim.

People who are seriously injured may go into shock. Shock occurs when there is not enough blood circulating in the body. It can be life-threatening, so you must act quickly.

Symptoms of shock include restlessness, pale skin, vomiting, decreased consciousness, sweating, a weak but rapid pulse, and difficulty breathing.

To help someone in shock, lay the victim on his or her back. Cover the victim with a light blanket to conserve body heat and raise the person’s feet above the level of the heart. Check regularly to make sure the victim is breathing, and don’t give the victim anything to eat or drink.

If you act quickly and follow these steps, you could save a coworker’s life.

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