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Basic First Aid Procedures

Quick Tips #207

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Levels of Training

In the workplace, it is often the job of a Certified First Aid Provider to assist in stabilizing an injured or ill person until professional medical help arrives. Certified First Aid Providers are persons who are certified and trained to certain levels in first aid and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). 29 CFR 1910.151(b) states, "In the absence of an infirmary, clinic or hospital in near proximity of the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available."

Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) or Medical First Responder is a trade name for a 40-hour certification course in advanced first aid and CPR. This course is taught by hospitals, technical colleges or fire departments, and certification must be updated bi-annually. Basic First Aid and CPR courses are approximately eight hours long and are certified through a number of nationally recognized organizations, such as The American Red Cross, The American Heart Association and The National Safety Council, to name a few. These certifications also should be updated bi-annually.

Informed, trained citizens are indispensable in helping people in emergencies. To help citizens be more prepared for emergency situations, the American Red Cross trains people in first aid and CPR. Due to the increased need for first aid services, the development of the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) has been established in most communities. However, it remains equally important for citizens to be trained in first aid and know what to do until the EMS or other emergency medical professional arrives.

First Aid and Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are diseases that pass from one person to another. Most commonly, these are referred to as bloodborne or airborne pathogens. In first aid, bloodborne and airborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through touching, breathing and biting. People can become infected if touched by an infected person, or if the germs in that person's blood or other bodily fluids pass into the body through breaks in the skin or through the lining of the mouth, nose or eyes. Therefore, the greatest risk is in touching another person's blood or bodily fluids directly (without protective gloves or some other protective barrier). To learn more about complying with OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), see Quick Tips #105: OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030. Below are some basic guidelines to follow that will help reduce body fluid transmission when rendering first aid care.

  • Avoid direct contact with bodily fluids and blood whenever possible
  • Place barriers, such as gloves or a clean, dry cloth, between the victim's bodily fluids and yourself
  • Wear protective clothing, such as disposable gloves, to cover any cuts, scrapes or skin conditions you have
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after giving care
  • Do not eat, drink or touch your mouth, nose or eyes when giving first aid
  • Do not touch objects that may be soiled with blood or other bodily fluids
  • Be prepared by having a first aid kit stocked and easily accessible

By following these simple guidelines, the risk of getting or transmitting infectious diseases is reduced.

Good Samaritan Laws

Most states have enacted Good Samaritan Laws to encourage people to help others in emergency situations. These laws give legal protection to people who provide emergency care to ill or injured persons. They require that the "good samaritan" use common sense and a reasonable level of skill not to exceed the scope of the individual's training in emergency situations.

If you're interested in learning more about the Good Samaritan Laws in your state, contact a local legal professional or check your local library.

Basic First Aid Procedures

Following are some basic first aid procedures for treating shock, bleeding and wounds, burns, choking, electric shock, eye injury, fainting, heat stroke, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. These techniques can be used in the workplace or at home and being prepared will help make the most of a serious situation.


Shock can be life threatening. Symptoms include cold sweat, weakness, irregular breathing, chills, pale or bluish lips and fingernails, rapid weak pulse and nausea.

  • Call 9-1-1 or seek medical help immediately.
  • Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink.
  • Lay the victim on his/her back, but do not move him/her if there's a back or neck injury. If the victim is unconscious, vomiting or has severe injury to the lower face or jaw, lay him/her on his/her side and be sure the victim is getting adequate air.
  • Keep the victim warm (not hot) by use of blankets or clothes.
  • Raise the victim's feet and legs with a pillow. (Only do this if it does not cause the victim any pain.)
Bleeding and Wounds
  • Place a clean cloth or gauze and gloved hand over the wound; apply firm, steady pressure for at least 5 minutes.
  • Call 9-1-1 or other emergency personnel if bleeding is severe.
  • Elevate an injured arm or leg above the level of the victim's heart if practical.
  • When bleeding stops, secure the cloth with a bandage. Do Not lift the cloth from the wound to check if bleeding has stopped. Be sure the bandage is not too tight—it may cut off circulation.
  • Check the victim for shock.

Never use a tourniquet unless you cannot control the bleeding. Tourniquets may result in subsequent medical amputation.


1. Chemical or Compressed Gas Burns

  • Use a drench hose, emergency shower or eyewash for at least 15 minutes to rinse away all traces of chemicals while removing any contaminated clothing from the victim. (See illustration 1.)
  • Cover the burn loosely with a clean, dry cloth or special burn dressing.
  • Check the victim for shock.
  • Call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention as soon as possible.

2. Heat or Electrical Burns

  • If necessary, use water to stop actual burning of skin.
  • If the skin is not broken, submerse the burned area under cool running water, or gently apply a cool compress until pain is relieved. Bandage with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Do not break a blister if one forms.
  • Do not apply ointments or creams.
  • If skin is broken, or if burns are severe:
    • Call 9-1-1 or other emergency personnel.
    • Do not clean the wound or remove embedded clothing.
    • Cover the burn loosely with a clean, dry cloth.
    • Expect shock and treat accordingly.

Note: These instructions are for choking victims over one year of age. There are specific guidelines for treatment of infant choking that are not outlined in this document.

If the victim can speak or cough forcibly and is getting sufficient air, do not interfere with his/her attempts to cough the obstruction from the throat. If the victim cannot speak or is not getting sufficient air, have someone call 9-1-1 while you perform abdominal thrusts.

1. Stand directly behind the victim and wrap your arms around the stomach. (See illustration 2.)

2. Make a fist with one hand and place that fist just above the navel and well below the ribs, with the thumb and forefinger side toward you. (See illustration 3.)

3. Grasp this fist with the other hand and pull it quickly toward you with an inward and slightly upward thrust. Repeat if necessary. (See illustration 4.)

If the victim becomes unconscious:

  1. Lay the victim on their back.
  2. If the object that is blocking the airway is visible, reach a finger into the victim's mouth (along the inside of the cheek) and try to sweep the obstruction out of the victim's throat, being careful not to push the object deeper into the victim’s airway.
  3. Even if this is not successful, attempt rescue breathing.
  4. If the victim is still not breathing or moving, begin chest compressions (CPR).
Electric Shock
  1. Do not touch the victim until electrical contact is broken.
  2. If possible, unplug or switch off the source of electricity.
  3. If victim is not breathing and has no pulse, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately.
Eye Injury

1. Chemical

  1. Hold the eyelids apart and flush the eyeball with lukewarm water for at least 15-30 minutes. Be careful not to let runoff water flow into the other eye.
  2. Place a gauze pad or cloth over both eyes and secure it with a bandage.
  3. Get to an eye specialist or emergency room immediately.

2. Cut, Scratch or Embedded Object

  1. Place a gauze pad or cloth over both eyes and secure it with a bandage.
  2. Do not try to remove an embedded object.
  3. Get to an eye specialist or emergency room immediately.

Note: Fainting victims regain consciousness almost immediately. If this does not happen, the victim could be in serious danger and you should call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.

  1. Lay the victim down on their back and make sure they have plenty of fresh air.
  2. Reassure the victim and apply a cold compress to the forehead.
  3. If the victim vomits, roll the victim on his/her side and keep the windpipe clear.
  4. Report the fainting incident to the victim's doctor.
Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can be life threatening. Symptoms can include a body temperature of 105°F or higher; dry, hot, flushed skin; rapid pulse; unconsciousness; and lack of perspiration.

  1. Get the victim out of the heat and into a cooler place.
  2. Place the victim in the shock position, lying on the back with feet up.
  3. Remove or loosen the victim's clothing.
  4. Cool the victim by fanning and applying cloth-wrapped cold packs or wet towels.
  5. Treat for shock.
Hypothermia (Prolonged exposure to the cold)

Hypothermia can be life threatening. Symptoms include lower than normal body temperature, shivering, apathy, disorientation, drowsiness, and eventually, unconsciousness.

  1. Immediately move the victim into the best available nearby shelter.
  2. Get the victim out of wet clothes and replace with dry clothes, sleeping bag or blankets.
  3. Have the victim drink a warm, sweet, non-alcoholic beverage if possible.
  4. Seek medical help.
  1. Determine responsiveness by gently tapping the victim's shoulder and asking, "Are you okay?"
  2. If there is no response, shout "Help!" and look for a medical alert tag on the victim's neck or wrist.
  3. If victim is not breathing and has no pulse, begin CPR.
  4. Call 9-1-1 or seek medical aid as soon as possible.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q.   How can I best prepare my workplace for an emergency?
A.   1. Always have a stocked first aid kit and emergency equipment handy.
2.Establish an emergency responder program in the workplace.
3. Always consider safety first. By adopting a safety program, you can keep work-related accidents to a minimum.
Q.   Can I be sued for providing first aid care in an emergency?
A.   People rarely sue someone for helping in an emergency, but it does happen on occasion. However, if you act as a reasonable and prudent person under these conditions, good samaritan immunity will generally protect you.
Q.   When should I call for assistance?
A.   If the victim is unconscious, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. If the victim is conscious, call an ambulance—unless they ask that an ambulance not be called. Call 9-1-1 or an ambulance anyway IF the victim:
  • Is or becomes unconscious
  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing in a strange way
  • Has chest pain or pressure
  • Is bleeding severely
  • Has pressure or pain in the abdomen that does not go away
  • Is vomiting or passing blood
  • Has seizures, a severe headache or slurred speech
  • Appears to have been poisoned
  • Has injuries to the head, back or neck
  • Has possible broken bones


American Heart Association

American Red Cross

National Safety Council

(Rev. 9/2014)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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