On the Safe Side: First Aid
This article will focus on the treatment and identification of cuts and lacerations that are constantly ranked as the most common workplace injuries.
Typical causes of these lacerations include improper training, lack of established safety procedures, employees in a hurry, taking short cuts or not following safety procedures, failure to wear cut-resistant gloves or wearing improper gloves for a job, missing or improperly adjusted guarding, poor housekeeping, poor lighting and more.
IDENTIFYING THE TYPE OF WOUND
A bleeding wound is typically one of the four varieties:
Abrasion: An abrasion is a wound that is caused by friction. Signs of a friction wound are typically missing skin and minimal bleeding. These wounds are typically of a minor nature.
Cut: A cut refers to a wound in which there is separation of the tissue. Unlike an abrasion, none of the skin is missing. A cut is a wound caused by a sharp object. These wounds can vary from minor to serious.
Laceration: A laceration is a torn or jagged wound. The typical cause of a laceration includes a blunt trauma (such as a blow, fall or collision). Cuts and lacerations can be grouped in the same category and the terms are often interchanged.
Avulsion: An avulsion is wound where tissue is not just separated but torn away from the body. These wounds are typically serious in nature.
DETERMING TYPE OF BLEEDING
Capillary bleeding: This type of bleeding is caused typically by abrasion wounds. The wound opens tiny capillaries just below the skin’s surface. Capillary bleeding usually slows or stops before any serious blood loss can occur.
Venous bleeding: This form of bleeding is caused from deeper wounds to the tissue puncture veins. It is characterized by blood that is dark red in color and slowly exits the body. This type of bleeding is typically not life-threatening.
Arterial bleeding: This type of bleeding is caused by the laceration of an artery. It is characterized by spurting blood that is bright red in color. Arterial bleeding is the most difficult type of blood loss to control. Even a small, but deep, arterial puncture wound can cause the loss of life. Seek medical help immediately if this type of bleeding is suspected.
When an employee suffers a cut, it is important to treat the wound immediately. The first part of treatment is to stop the bleeding.
To stop bleeding, put pressure directly on the wound with sterile gauze or other bandages. This, coupled with elevating the wound above heart level, should stop the bleeding within 15 minutes. If the bleeding won’t stop after 15 minutes, try to use the pressure point nearest the wound and call for emergency medical help immediately.
(Common pressure points: Arm between shoulder and elbow-the brachial artery; groin area along bikini line-femoral artery; behind the knee-popliteal artery.)
CLEAN THE WOUND
Once bleeding has stopped, clean the wound by washing the adjacent skin with soap and water, and removing crusted blood with diluted hydrogen peroxide. Next, irrigate the wound by squirting a saline solution into the wound. This is a highly effective way to reduce the potential for bacterial infection. If bleeding starts during the treatment, reapply pressure.
After cleaning the wound, it is important to properly bandage it to prevent infection. To do this, apply an antibiotic cream to the inside of the material being used as the dressing. Next, cover the wound with the dressing. The dressing should extend beyond the wound by about 1/2 inch so that it covers the wound completely and allows room to affix the dressing to uninjured skin.
Once the dressing is on the wound, cut four strips of athletic tape and use them to attach the dressing to the skin. If there is a risk that the wound will be exposed to water, cover the bandage with waterproof material, such as waterproof tape or plastic.
A VISIT TO THE ER?
Use these questions to evaluate if you need to send an injured employee to the emergency room:
Can you stop the bleeding?
Are the wound edges separated?
Can you adequately clean the wound?
Is it possible that serious underlying damage was done (such as a cut nerve or tendon)?
Has the employee had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years?
For a free documentable safety meeting on first aid for lacerations, e-mail mrich@safetyservicescompany.