FIRST AID: DUTY OF CARE AND THE LAW PART 3

FIRST AID: DUTY OF CARE AND THE LAW

PART 3

A group of adult education students practitcing CPR chest compressioon on a dummy.

A group of adult education students practitcing CPR chest compressioon on a dummy.

There are two common questions that are often asked in the First Aid Forum and these are: –

  1. Do I move an unconscious casualty, who is not breathing and they have a suspected spinal injury?

This dilemma is frequently illustrated on TV, or even in reality (if you have ever been unlucky enough to be at the scene of a car crash), when bystanders scream “Don’t move them! They might have a neck injury!” It is a minefield.

It is recommended that if you are willing to treat the casualty, being aware of the seriousness of the situation and confident in your abilities, then proceed. This is also a very common question that my First Aid learners ask, because it always comes up during the practical session of the Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) Course.

Opening the airway in the manner in which you have been trained limits the potential damage to a spinal injury. Be extra careful when pulling the head back to establish an airway. This is a lifesaving procedure, which is in the best interest of the casualty, especially if they are not breathing. It may be that the casualty has a spinal injury and you might make it worse by opening the airway, but an unconscious casualty, especially if they are on their back, cannot maintain their own airway.  I tell my students that if the victim’s airway is blocked, they will not be able to breathe and this will always take priority over any injury, whether spinal or the like.

If you have treated the casualty in line with your First Aid training and have received a certificate (valid for 3 years), it is therefore unlikely a claim will be made against you. This is simply because you acted within the parameters of the skills that you learnt on your one day course.

  1. 2. Am I liable, if I break someone’s ribs, when performing CPR?

If you are willing to treat the casualty, being aware of the seriousness of the situation and confident in your abilities, then proceed with CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary resuscitation) until they either regain consciousness, you get assistance form a Second Aider, an ambulance crew arrives or you are simply exhausted and cannot go on.

Performing CPR is a skill, which needs to be taught in a classroom setting, in order to be effective to the learner of First aid.  Performing CPR as you have been trained to, will protect you to a greater extent, than violently or haphazardly ‘jumping on someone’s chest’. This is because that is your interpretation of how it should be done. Remember that no two people or First Aid emergencies are the same and a person’s age and medical history will guide you in the amount of pressure applied to the chest when doing the Chest Compressions. For example, if the casualty has Osteoporosis (brittle bones), your compression may not be as vigorous as it would be for a younger healthy person.

Whilst a broken rib is detrimental for a casualty who is not breathing and assumed to have suffered a heart attack, it is largely irrelevant. Following a call to 999/112 and locating a defibrillator (if there is one available), perfusion (delivery) of oxygenated blood to the vital organs through effective CPR is in the best interest of the casualty i.e. making them come to life.

It is certainly possible that a rib can be broken, whilst performing CPR, even if trained and practised to the best standards. A broken rib is not a priority of a casualty in this situation.  Because of these two factors, it is unlikely that a claim would be brought against you. It must be noted here; that in any emergency situation, time is critical and every second wasted could lead to a person’s death. Therefore, breaking a rib or moving a body is irrelevant to the goal of re- starting a heart that has stopped beating.

My advice to everyone out there is to take the EFAW course as soon as possible. It is easy to learn and fun and you will meet like-minded people who want to help others and learn how to be a Good Samaritan to your fellow man. It may not be a stranger you save with your new learned skills but a friend or even a loved-one. After all it is a day out of your normal life to learn skills you may use one day.

I hope that one day First Aid will be taught to children and young people in schools colleges and universities as part of the educational curriculum. It will help them to grow up with this valuable knowledge, because it is all our responsibility to save each other’s life if indicated.

MK

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