What is First Aid?
First aid is the initial care given to an injured or ill casualty until the arrival of a paramedic, nurse or medical doctor.
The four aims of first aid are to:
- Protect life
- Prevent further deterioration
- Promote recovery
- Preserve life
Any attempt is better than no attempt!
First Aid Basics – Calling for Medical Assistance
Triple Zero (000)
Stay focused, stay relevant, and stay on the line:
- Is someone seriously injured or in need of urgent medical help?
- Is your life or property being threatened?
- Have you just witnessed a serious accident or crime?
- If you answered YES, call Triple Zero (000). Triple Zero calls are free.
When you call Triple Zero (000), the operator will ask:
- Do you want Police, Fire, or Ambulance?
- Stay calm, don’t shout, and speak slowly and clearly
- Tell us exactly where to come. Give an address or location
If you are deaf or have a speech or hearing impairment call 106:
- This is a Text Emergency Call, not an SMS
- You can call teletypewriters
- State which service you need and where to come
Mobile phone services: Triple Zero (000) & One One Two (112):
- Triple Zero (000) is Australia’s primary telephone number to call for assistance in life-threatening or time-critical emergency situations.
- 112 is a secondary emergency number that can be dialled from mobile phones in Australia.
- There is a misconception that 112 calls will be carried by satellite if there is no mobile coverage. Satellite phones use different technology and your mobile phone cannot access a satellite network
- Important – if there is no mobile coverage on any network, you will not be able to reach the Emergency Call Service via a mobile phone, regardless of which number you dialled.
- 112 is an international standard emergency number that can only be dialled on a digital mobile phone.
Legal Aspects – Duty of Care
In Australia, first aiders are only obliged to render assistance in an emergency (or carry a duty of care) if:
- They were involved in the incident;
- They are on the ocean (e.g. sailing); or
- They choose to accept the responsibility on land
Other situations that would be considered ‘accepting responsibility” or ‘carrying a duty of care’ could be:
- Parenting or babysitting a child
- Employment that involves workplace health and safety or first aid provision (e.g. first aid officer role, police officer, teacher, personal trainer etc.)
- If you are an employer or managing/supervising other workers
- Stopping at an emergency – remember that by starting to help you are establishing a duty of care
People with first aid qualifications are not always automatically expected to assist in emergencies. A duty of care needs to exist for the legal obligation to take place. Neglecting an existing duty of care may result in implications associated with negligence. To identify your legal implications or for further clarification, you are encouraged to seek legal advice.
The standard of care required of a person who has a duty of care to respond is higher. Like other persons in our community who hold themselves out to have a skill, they must perform their tasks to a standard expected of a reasonably competent person with their training and experience. However, this does not mean that the standard of care given must be of the highest level.
All first aiders should remain caring for the casualty at the scene if safe until medical aid (such as a medical doctor, nurse, paramedic or ambulance officer, or the fire brigade) takes over.
Legal Aspects – The Protection of Good Samaritans
A Good Samaritan is an individual that provides assistance, advice or care to another person in relation to an emergency or accident in circumstances in which he or she expects no money or any other financial reward for providing the assistance, advice or care.
First aiders providing care should always stay within the limits of their training. Unless the first aider is put in danger by staying, they are legally expected to continue to provide their support until medical aid takes over. Neglecting a duty of care, or ignoring the limits of first aid training, may result in further implications associated with the law.
Should a casualty recover and the nature of their condition does not require medical attention, the first aider may end their duty of care to the casualty.
Legal Aspects – Casualty Consent
Before providing first aid to a “competent” casualty, a first aider must obtain their consent. If first aid is provided without consent, it has the potential of being counted as a “medical trespass” (assault). Conscious casualties have the right to refuse first aid treatment and their wishes need to be respected.
If a casualty is a minor (under 18yrs) you should gain consent from a parent/guardian. Parents and guardians have the right to refuse first aid treatment for their minors. In the absence of a parent/guardian, first aiders should regard children as having impaired-decision making capacity.
In the event of refusal, first aiders with a duty of care should contact 000 (ambulance) for advice and should stay at the scene (if safe to do so) until otherwise advised
Legal Aspects –Treatment Without Consent
Although first aid treatment normally requires consent, an injured or ill person should not be deprived of first aid merely because they lack decision-making capacity. The key legal factors which determine whether treatment can be given without consent are:
- Whether the casualty has or does not have decision-making capacity;
- Whether an advance care directive exists;
- The degree of urgency of the situation, and;
- Whether a substitute decision-maker is present, willing and able to consent
If the casualty is incapable of consenting, (e.g. the casualty is unconscious) and no substitute decision-maker is present, a first aider may provide urgent first aid to preserve life and health without consent (unless an advance care directive prohibits such treatment).
This means the legal requirement to obtain consent before providing assistance or treatment is waived under Common Law and Statute law in several circumstances, e.g. if the casualty is unconscious or becomes unconscious before consent was discussed.
Refer to ARC Guideline 10.5 “Legal & ethical issues related to resuscitation”
Legal Aspects – First Aid and Workplace Health and Safety
In all Australian states, there is legislation that requires all employers to provide a safe working environment for all employees. They are also obliged to ensure there is the provision of first aid and first aid equipment in the event of an emergency.
A designated workplace first aider has a legal duty of care if they are safe to do so, to give first aid to any person suffering an illness or injury in the workplace. This requires the designated first aider to attend regular first aid training sessions in order to keep their skills current. Refresher training in CPR should be undertaken annually according to ARC guidelines and the Code of Practice for First Aid.
For further information, contact your state government occupational health & safety regulator.
Legal Aspects – Privacy and Confidentiality
Where possible, a first aider must take steps to assist the casualty to maintain dignity and personal privacy. Methods of doing this can be by:
- Having crowd control
- Putting up a privacy screen
- If appropriate to do so, move the casualty to a quiet area
- Cover up any exposed body parts, e.g. emergency rescue blanket, sheets, blankets
The Privacy Act and Principles impact upon all first aid rendered, therefore a first aider needs to take steps to maintain confidentiality. This means you should not disclose the casualty’s personal details, incident details, medical conditions and aid rendered to family members, close friends or answering questions from the media unless you have permission from the casualty.
It is important that all first aid incidents, inside or outside of work, be recorded in writing.
Each workplace should have appropriate documentation for the reporting of illness or injury.
These documents need to be completed in full and should not be altered. Therefore, correction fluid or pencil should not be used on these documents.
Outside of the workplace, if an incident occurs, first aiders should take accurate, brief and clear notes and keep them on hand in case an investigation takes place.
Notes should include:
- At the time of the incident
- The date of the incident
- The location of the incident
- What the first aider found upon arrival
- What actions the first aider carry out
- Any changes in the casualty’s condition
- Any witness details
- Handover to medical professional’s details
- Did the casualty recover and relieve the first aider of their duty of care?
All documentation should be signed and dated by the first aider and stored securely to maintain confidentiality. Keep your notes clear and easy to understand and ensure you write down exactly how things are presented to you
(Childcare) – Law Section 174, Regulations 12, 85-87, 168, 177-178, 183
- Centres must have an incident, injury, trauma and illness policies and procedures in the event that a child: (a) is injured; (b) becomes ill, or (c) suffers a trauma.
- A Centre must ensure that a parent of a child is notified as soon as practicable, but no later than 24 hours after an occurrence, if the child is involved in an incident, injury, trauma or illness
- The details of the occurrence must be correctly and accurately recorded within 24 hours
- The occurrence records are stored safely and securely until the child is aged 25 years
- That the Regulatory Authority is notified of a serious incident which includes: (a) death of a child; or (b) where medical assistance was required; or (c) attendance of emergency services at the education and care service premises was sought, or ought reasonably to have been sought.
The human body is made up of different anatomical and physiological systems, each performing a vital role. Whilst is it not crucial for a first aider to know detailed information about these systems it will benefit the first aider to have a basic knowledge of how the systems work.
Several are particularly useful for a first aider to have a basic knowledge of.
The skeletal system is made up of 206 bones that provide structure to our bodies and protects our internal organs from damage. Muscles, ligaments and tendons are closely linked with this system and all play vital roles in allowing movement and function of limbs and body parts.
The bones of the skeleton have 4 main functions:
- To give shape to the body
- To produce blood cells
- Support muscles to allow movement
- Protect vital organs
This system is made up of the heart, blood and blood vessels. Blood flowing from the heart delivers oxygen and nutrients to every part of the body. The bloodstream removes waste products via transportation to the kidneys and other organs.
Heart – is a muscular organ in the chest that pumps blood around our body. The heart is divided into four chambers: upper left and right atria; and lower left and right ventricles. The average adult resting heart rate is between 60 – 100 beats per minute.
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of the body. Blood provides the body with the oxygen and nourishment it needs to function. Waste products carried by the blood are removed from the body by organs such as kidneys. The right side of the heart obtains deoxygenated blood via main veins (Superior and Inferior Vena Cava) and pumps this blood to the lungs where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is released.
The oxygenated blood returns to the heart via the pulmonary vein into the left atrium.
The blood is then pumped into the left ventricle which pumps blood into the body’s main artery – the aorta. The aorta is the body’s largest artery and carries blood to smaller arteries which distribute blood to all parts of the body. On the return trip, the now deoxygenated blood carries back to the heart via veins into the right atrium, and the cycle continues.
Blood – blood is composed of a clear liquid called plasma. Red blood cells make the blood look red, and allow oxygen to be delivered around the body. White blood cells are part of your body’s defence against disease. Platelets are cells that help your body repair itself after injury through coagulation (clotting).
Blood Vessels – Arteries transport oxygenated blood away from the heart. Veins transport de-oxygenated blood back to the heart. Arteries narrow into arterioles. Capillaries are the smallest vessels that connect the arterioles to the venules. It is at this level that the majority of transfusion with cells takes place.
Heart Rate / Pulse – heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times the heart beats per minute. Normal heart rate varies from person to person. The average normal resting heart rates which vary with age are:
Basic knowledge of this system will help in understanding the mechanics of CPR and DRS ABCD.
The nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord and a huge network of nerves that thread throughout our entire body. The nerves receive and conduct information to the brain for processing, which enables the coordination of all of our actions and reactions. From applying correct pressure when gripping a cup to retracting your hand from a sharp or hot object.
Basic knowledge of this system is useful when dealing with burns and pain management.
As all cells in our body need oxygen to survive, our respiratory system is vital to our survival.
This system comprises of 2 parts:
Airway – mouth, nose, trachea, larynx, bronchi and bronchioles.
Lungs – are literally large bags of air that contain small air sacs that are called alveoli. As we breathe, oxygen from the alveoli is filtered into the bloodstream and carbon dioxide out of the bloodstream. This process is essential to our survival – 4-6 minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage.
A basic understanding of this system is useful when learning about airway management and CPR.
Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs or oxygen through other respiratory organs. This process is also known as ventilation
Overall, children have quicker respiratory rates than adults, and women breathe more often than men. The normal ranges for different age groups are listed:
A child’s airway differs from that of an adult in that the child’s tongue is proportionately larger in the oropharynx compared to that of an adult.
Also, a child’s airway is smaller and softer and more prone to foreign body obstruction. The trachea is usually about the diameter of a pencil.
Infants have very short and softer tracheas than adults. This means that overextension of the head (Tilting the head) during CPR may result in airway collapse (not too dissimilar to kinking a narrow garden hose).
The causes of unconsciousness can be categorised into four general groups:
- Low oxygen levels in the brain
- Heart and circulation problems (e.g. fainting, abnormal heart rhythms, severe blood loss)
- Metabolic problems (e.g. low blood sugar, drug overdose, intoxication)
- Brain problems (e.g. stroke, head injury, tumour, epilepsy)
Signs and Symptoms
Before the casualty has loss of consciousness, they may experience:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness, confusion
- Normal skin colour changes
- Changed or blurred vision, slurred speech
The musculoskeletal system is a term used to describe the bones, as well as the adjoining ligaments, tendons and muscles. The following section will provide an overview of the names and locations of different bones; however, you are not expected to demonstrate a complete knowledge of all the bones listed.
It is recommended that you become familiar with the following section, as it will assist you in understanding medical terminology, and give you a greater knowledge base as a first aider in which to understand and communicate effectively.
When giving first aid to a sick or injured person you should try to minimise the risks to yourself, bystanders and to the casualties.
All around the world, any one person could be infected with a communicable disease. This any one person could very well be your casualty. Diseases that are life-threatening can include HIV/AIDS and hepatitis strains.
Chain of Infection
Whether or not infection happens will depend on a number of things. This is best explained by looking at the chain of infection.
The Six links to the Chain of Infection
In order for infection to occur, the links to the Chain of Infection must occur.
- Infectious Agent: Any disease-causing micro-organism (pathogen) i.e. bacteria, virus.
- Reservoir: Where the pathogen is located (i.e. blood, saliva)
- Portal of Exit: The route of escape of the pathogen from the reservoir (i.e. saliva via coughing, blood via a cut in the skin)
- Mode of Transmission: How the pathogen gets from the reservoir to its new host (i.e. propelled through the air, direct contact)
- Portal of Entry: The route in which the pathogen enters the new host (breaks in skin (cuts, wounds), inhalation, ingestion, sexual contact).
- Susceptible Host: The organism that accepts the pathogen (you or the casualty)
How to Break the Chain of Infection
Correct Hand Washing – appropriate hand washing by the First Aider remains the most important factor in preventing the spread of micro-organisms. Good hand washing techniques are displayed in the attached picture.
Barriers – use barrier equipment whenever possible (gloves, masks, face shields, eye protection and tongs). Barriers dramatically lessen the spread of infection, both to the casualty and to you!
It is important that when providing first aid treatment, those standard precautions are taken to limit the risk of infection by avoiding direct contact with the infection. Besides the preventative measures already mentioned, you should:
- Avoid coughing, breathing or speaking over the wound
- Avoid contact with body fluids
NOTE: In many emergency situations, the first aider may not have access to gloves, masks, or other PPE. Where it is not practical to use the PPE stated, one may ‘improvise’, using plastic bags, clothing, or whatever is available to try to protect themselves and the casualty.
That’s it for our introduction to first aid! We hope you found this helpful and that it has given you a good foundation on which to build. If you are looking for more in-depth information, or if you need to get certified, we have a variety of courses available. Check our available first aid courses to learn more and get started today!
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