Basic First Aid

In this video, we’ll learn how accidents can happen at any time and how being prepared by knowing basic first aid could mean the difference between life and death.

What is Basic First Aid?

Basic first aid is being able to provide basic medical care to someone who is experiencing a sudden injury or illness.  It often comes in forms such as treatment to burns, cuts, or even insect stings; but could also consist of providing support to someone in the middle of a medical emergency. In these scenarios, it’s important to remain calm, assess the situation, and work to stabilize the person.  

Remain Calm:

When administering aid, it’s important that you always remain calm so can you think clearly and assess the situation while comforting the person in distress. 

Assess the Situation:

After you take a deep breath, it’s important to assess the situation to see if basic aid is required or if emergency medical attention is required.


Use your knowledge and basic aid skills to stabilize the injury. If basic aid isn’t working, reassess your approach and provide basic care until emergency help arrives.


First Aid Kits

When you think of first aid, one of the first things that come to mind is a first aid kit. The first aid kits contain the proper equipment needed to treat most minor injuries. While most of the supplies are not enough to treat major medical emergencies, they can often provide temporary relief until medical professionals arrive to help.

As an employee of Service Sanitation, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the locations of these boxes should they ever be required. These boxes can often be found inside a garage bay and inside each of the branch offices. Service technicians should also have a small first aid kit with them at all times in case of minor injuries.


In addition to a first aid kit, each branch location is equipped with an automated external defibrillator,(AED).  This medical device is designed to analyze heart rhythms and deliver an electric shock to victims experiencing cardiac arrest. Should you ever have a need to use this device, it’s important that you quickly contact 911 and then. If you’re unable to find someone, there are simple directions listed inside the device to walk you through device operation.

Universal Precautions

When administering first aid, it’s important that you take proper precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of the person you are caring for. This includes washing your hands, wearing proper PPE, and disposing of any clothing, bandages, or protective equipment that may have been contaminated.

Step One: Hand Washing

The first step to administering first aid is proper hygiene, best achieved by washing your hands. When washing your hands, try to use hot water and anti-bacterial soap if available.  If unavailable, consider using a disinfectant wipe, which can often be found in a standard first aid kit.

Step Two: Personal Protective Equipment

After washing your hands, you’ll want to protect yourself and the person you are caring for by wearing proper personal protective equipment, known as PPE.  The most common first aid PPE includes, but is not limited to gloves safety glasses and breathing barriers should CPR be necessary. .

Step Three: Disposing of contaminated clothes, bandages, or PPE.

Practicing good housekeeping and trash disposal are important after administering first aid.  This includes the disposal of clothing, bandages, or PPE that may have contacted blood or bodily fluids.  For contaminated clothing, it’s important to either dispose of them or wash them immediately to reduce the risk of infection through the skin. Used bandages, PPE, sharp objects or needles,  should be immediately disposed of using a biohazard bag or sharps container.  When handling these objects, always follow the non-pumpable items and service procedures for proper disposal. After disposing of these objects, be sure to wash your hands once again using hot water and antibacterial soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Common Injuries and Illnesses

Common, everyday injuries and illnesses that you may experience while working in the field may include cuts, abrasions, burns, back pains, hypothermia, difficulty breathing, eye injuries, allergic reactions, heatstroke, chest pains, head injuries, or event poison ingestion. 

Each of these potential injuries or illnesses will often require immediate medical attention. If one of these injuries happens to you or someone around you, remember to remain calm, assess the situation, and do you best to stabilize the injury.  If you’re unable to stabilize the injury, contact 911 immediately.

CPR - Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation also known as CPR is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies, including heart attack, shock or even drowning, in which someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone, including untrained bystanders, learn the basics of CPR, especially chest compressions.  It's better to do something with little knowledge than nothing at all. Remember, the difference between doing something and doing nothing could be someone's life.

Before you begin, it’s important to make sure the environment is safe, and the person is indeed unconscious.  If there are two people nearby, have one person call 911 and immediately get an AED defibrillator while the other proceeds with CPR. If you’re alone, call 911 first and then proceed with CPR, if you are comfortable doing so. 


According to the American Heart Association, if you're not trained in CPR, it’s recommended that you provide hands-only CPR. That means uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 per minute until paramedics arrive (described in more detail below). Rescue breathing is NOT recommended without proper training.


If you're well-trained and confident in your ability, check to see if there is a pulse and breathing. If there is no breathing or a pulse within 10 seconds, begin chest compressions. Start CPR with 30 chest compressions before giving two rescue breaths.

Trained but rusty:

If you've previously received CPR training, but you're not confident in your abilities, do chest compressions only at a rate of 100 to 120 a minute.


The American Heart Association uses the letters A-B-C standing for airways, breathing, and circulation to help people remember the correct order to perform the steps of CPR.


Before you consider CPR, make sure the person has an open airway and isn’t choking. To open their airway, you’ll need to tilt their head back slightly and lift their chin.  This action shifts the tongue away from the back of the throat and allows air to reach the lungs.


Next, you’ll need to check for breathing.  With your face turned towards the person’s torso and positioned right above the person’s mouth, listen for breathing, and look to see if the chest is rising and falling.  If you see an infrequent gasp of air, the person is not breathing normally.\


After checking for a pulse and breathing, check for a pulse by feeling for 5-10 seconds at a time on the victim’s neck or wrist.  If there is no pulse, begin chest compressions and follow the instructions on the side of the AED Defibrillator.  To perform chest compressions, place the heel of one hand on the lower part of the victim's sternum. With your other hand directly on top of firsthand, depress the sternum 1.5 to 2 inches.  You’ll then need to perform 15 compressions to every 2 breaths. Check for the return of pulse every minute. Continue uninterrupted until advanced life support is available. 


Shock is a life-threatening condition brought upon by the sudden drop in blood flow throughout the body. When a person is in shock, his or her organs are not getting enough blood or oxygen. Signs someone may be in shock include clammy skin, bluish lips, rapid breathing, a change in mental status, or a sense of extreme dizziness and fatigue. 

If you come across a coworker who may be in shock, immediately call 911 and encourage them to lie down with their feet elevated. If they feel nauseous, have trouble breathing, or you suspect a spinal injury, encourage them to lie flat and stay very still.  Keep calm and encourage the person to remain calm as well.   


Minor cuts and abrasions are often the most common injuries in the workplace. Initial treatment for minor cuts or abrasions typically requires cleansing the wound with an antiseptic or soap and water.

When treating someone else’s wounds, always check for allergies before administering any creams or ointments. If all checks out, apply a dressing or bandage if the wound is bleeding.

If there is major external bleeding and simple bandaging isn’t working, the patient will most likely require emergency medical treatment and you need to call 911 immediately. While waiting for emergency medical attention, it’s recommended that you apply pressure to the wound to help control the bleeding. It can also be helpful to elevate the injured part of the body unless a break or fracture is suspected. In which case, it’s best to comfort the person and monitor for symptoms of shock.


Although highly unlikely, being bitten by an animal (or even a hostile person) is a potential risk while working in the field. If either of these were to occur, the first action would be to evade the danger, then assess the severity of the wound.

If minor, do your best to cleanse the wound with soap and water for at least 5 minutes. Then apply a dressing to control bleeding.

If the wound appears to be severe, or the bite was by a hostile person, contact 911 to inform them of the situation so they can quickly dispatch the proper authorities. Continue to apply pressure to the wound until help arrives and proper treatment can be applied.


Most insect stings can be mild, causing minor pain, redness, itching, or swelling. Also, mosquito bites can sometimes carry the West Nile virus and ticks can carry lyme disease.

To treat a mild insect sting, first find safe area to evade the predator and quickly pull the stinger out. Never attempt to pinch the area where a stinger is present, as this can further irritate the bite. Once the stinger is out, cleanse the area with soap and water and apply a cool compress using ice, water, and a clean towel. This will help reduce pain and potential swelling.

If the sting is on an arm or leg, try to elevate it to help with the pain. Once home, apply hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or even baking soda paste to the bite.  Continue to do this for several days until your pain and irritation go away. Taking an antihistamine may also help reduce the itching.

If the sting does not disappear after a day or two, you should consult a physician. Always contact emergency services if you experience: difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat, dizziness, faintness or confusion, rapid heartbeat, hives, nausea, cramps, or vomiting immediately following an insect sting.


 On occasion, some stings or bites can cause a more severe, or allergic reaction. Bees, fire ants, and scorpions, are most likely to cause these more severe reactions.  Other common allergic reactions can be caused by skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Allergic reactions can  take up to an hour before the patient begins to see symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, anxiety, nausea, rash or hives, abdominal cramps, loss of consciousness, and/ or shock.

If you, or someone around you, suffers from a severe allergic reaction while working in the field, call 911 as soon as possible. While waiting for help to arrive, ask the person if they carry an EpiPen to treat the reaction. If the person has one, ask if they need help with the injection. Most EpiPen injections are done by pressing it against the thigh and holding it in place for a few seconds.

If the person is experiencing severe swelling, you may want to encourage them to loosen any tight clothing and offer them a blanket to cover themselves. It’s also recommended that you never give them anything to drink. If the person begins to vomit, have them sit upright and in a safe position to prevent choking. If they show no signs of breathing, coughing, or moving, call 911 and begin chest compressions if comfortable doing so.  


The nose is full of blood vessels and is located in a vulnerable position as it protrudes from the face.  As a result, any sort of trauma to the face can often cause a nosebleed.  

To manage a nosebleed, it’s recommended to first sit up and tilt your head slightly forward. Do not attempt to tilt your head back as this allows blood to run back into the sinuses and throat.  This can also cause gagging or inhaling of blood. 

With your head tilted slightly forward, use your pointer finger and thumb to apply pressure to the soft part of nostrils below the bridge of the nose for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, release the pressure on the nostrils and check to see if the bleeding has stopped. If the bleeding has stopped, don’t attempt to sniff or blow your nose for at least 15 minutes. If bleeding continues, seek medical assistance immediately. 


Despite countless safety measures and guidelines available in the workplace today, occupational burns continue to account for a considerable proportion of all burns reported in the ER.  Thermal (or heat) burns, chemical burns, electrical burns, and sunburns, are the common types of burns most people experience.  Each of these different types of burns can cause different levels of severity and should be treated accordingly.

There are three classifications, or degrees, of burns one can experience:   

First Degree Burns:

First-degree burns only damage the top layer of skin. These types of burns are often painful and can cause minor swelling. These types of burns often occur from mild sunburns. Treatment for first degree burns typically requires immediate cooling of the affected area by use of cold water and ice. After a few minutes of cooling, dry the affected area, and apply burn cream to relieve some pain and prevent infections.  Finally, apply a dry sterile dressing around the affected area.

Second Degree Burns:

Second degree burns damage both the inner and outer layers of skin and are significantly more painful than first degree burns.  This type of burn will cause the skin to become dark red and will sometimes cause blisters. If any blisters break open, treat them with antiseptic and a dry sterile dressing as quickly as possible to avoid infection. If the blisters stay closed, apply a cool wet dressing to soothe the pain. Do not open the blisters!

Third-degree burns:

Third degree burns damage both the inner and outer lays of skin as well as nerves, blood vessels, muscle, and sometimes even the bones below. These areas quite often will become charred black or white. Third degree burns are always considered a medical emergency and can only be wrapped in a dry sterile dressing until emergency treatment occurs. In extreme cases, heat shields and/or fire blankets can also be wrapped around the victim to prevent any further burn progression. They can also ease pain and protect against contamination.

Eye Injuries 

Eye injuries are a common occurrence in the workplace and often occur when a foreign substance enters the eye causing an eye penetrating injury.

Eye injuries can be extremely painful and quite debilitating.  Because of this, we have implemented a strict policy that requires ALL employees to wear protective eyewear at ALL times when servicing equipment, when contact with waste or chemicals may occur, and when using hand and power tools.

If a foreign substance or chemical were to ever enter your eye, it should be flushed immediately for at least 15 minutes. Eyewash stations are installed at various locations around each branch.  Please familiarize yourself with these locations should it ever be required.

When washing, remember to avoid rinsing water into the direction of the other eye and never attempt to remove any embedded objects, as this can cause more damage to the eye. If the pain persists, cover the eye with a paper cup, sterile dressing, or even a wrap and quickly seek medical attention. If a chemical were to enter the eye, it’s important to bring the SDS sheet with you to the hospital or urgent care. You should also avoid laying anything flat on the eye that could cause additional pressure. For severe eye injuries, consider covering both eyes as this will prevent you from trying to look around with the undamaged eye.

Remember to always remain calm and call 911 if medical attention is needed. Anytime any object enters the eyes it is strongly suggested to get checked by the clinic, regardless of the severity.


Employees who perform rigorous and repetitive tasks with excessive force in awkward positions are often at a higher risker for workplace sprains and should always proceed with extreme caution. 

So, what is a sprain?  A sprain is the tearing of fibers from a ligament that holds two bones together. This can often occur in the legs, arms, or neck.  For minor sprains,  always follow the R.I.C.E. method of recovery. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.  For more serious sprains, or possible breaks or fractures, seek medical attention for further evaluation.

Once a sprain occurs, it’s highly recommended to allow the sprain to rest and avoid putting any weight on the injury. This is best by using a sling or brace, depending on where the injury is located.

When resting, it’s important that you immediately ice the sprain for fifteen to twenty minutes,  to limit swelling. It’s also recommended to continue icing the injured area four to eight times a day until swelling improves.

After icing, compress the injury by wrapping it with an elastic bandage. Remember to wrap it tightly, but not too tight as this can cause more swelling to the affected area or cut off circulation. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, or increased swelling in the area below the bandage.

Once you’ve taken the steps to properly rest, ice, and compress the sprain, elevate the injury above your heart if, you’re able to, by sitting or lying down. This will help limit additional swelling that often occurs after a serious sprain.  Using furniture and pillows can be the easiest way to achieve this. 


Broken bones are serious, excruciating, and can take an extensive period of time to heal. If you or another person around you has encountered a broken bone (or fracture), control any bleeding that may have occurred using a sterile bandage, cloth, or in emergency situations a piece of clothing.

You’ll then need to immobilize the injured area by using a splint or sling and ice it for 10 minutes at a time. When dealing with a broken bone or fracture, medical attention is almost always needed.  If you’re able, do your best to comfort the injured individual, encourage them to rest, and offer to drive them to the hospital. If a neck or back injury is suspected, call 911 and keep the person immobile until emergency services arrive and are able to transport them to the hospital.


Head injuries are one of the most serious types of injuries in the workplace and should be handled with extreme caution. First aid response will often vary based on the symptoms of the person and the severity of the injury.

First, evaluate the initial level of consciousness. If any loss of consciousness occurs or was present at any time, contact 911 immediately. For severe injuries, keep the person as still as possible. If there appears to be any bleeding, apply firm pressure directly to the wound. If a skull fracture is suspected, never apply pressure. Continue to monitor breathing and alertness until emergency services arrive.

For minor injuries, do your best to comfort the individual and encourage them to lie down while icing the injury to prevent swelling. Continue to monitor the individual for at least 30 minutes. Watch for any signs of dizziness, vomiting, and changes in levels of consciousness as this is a sign of a possible concussion. If this occurs, contact 911 immediately.


Did you know a worker dies of toxic exposure in the workplace every 30 seconds? In situations where you think poisoning may be imminent, it’s important that you contact poison control immediately. If you come across someone around you who appears to have been poisoned, contact emergency services immediately. It can also be life-saving to acquire the SDS sheet of the product that may have caused the poisoning.

In addition to calling Poison Control, you can follow these quick life-saving procedures that can often make a significant impact if followed within seconds to minutes of poison exposure.


If you suspect poison occurred by ingestion, immediately encourage the person to drink a small amount of water or milk if the person is complaining about burning, irritation, or caustic and is conscious, not having convulsions, and able to swallow.


If you suspect poisoning occurred by entering a person’s eye, quickly remove contact lenses and flush the eye for at least fifteen to twenty minutes. While flushing the eye, have someone contact poison control for further instructions. Further examination and medical attention may be required if pain persists.


If you suspect poisoning occurred through the skin, the affected area should be rinsed thoroughly for at least 15 minutes. While rinsing, contact poison control for further instruction, and if any side effect is present from the contact a medical visit will be required.


If you suspect poisoning occurred through inhalation, remove the person from the exposed area if it can be done safely. Once moved to a safe location, contact poison control for further recommendations.


Although many individuals who have seizures do not require first aid or assistance, an employee who might need assistance may want to work with their manager or HR to create a plan of action that includes information such as: whom to contact in an emergency, warning signs of a possible seizure, how and when to provide assistance, and when to call an ambulance, etc.

Since a seizure cannot be stopped, first aid is often aimed at keeping the person safe until the seizure stops on its own. Should you come across someone having a seizure, always remain calm, loosen anything around the person's neck, do not restrain them, clear the area around them, and stay with them until the seizure stops.

If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, the person does not wake up, or the person has never had a seizure before, contact 911 immediately and stay with the person until the proper authorities arrive.


Each year, many people die from choking on objects that obstruct their airways and cause suffocation. Choking is, in fact, the fourth leading cause of unintentional death. However, there is a simple technique to help expel a trapped object from another person’s airway. You can even use a version of this technique on yourself.

This technique is called the Heimlich maneuver, or abdominal thrusts. Abdominal thrusts lift your diaphragm and expel air from your lungs. This causes the foreign object to be expelled from your airway.

The steps you need to perform a Heimlich maneuver depends on whom you’re aiding.  Regardless of whom you perform the maneuver on, that person should still get medical help afterward. This is to ensure no physical damage has occurred to their throat and airways.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on someone else

  1. Stand behind the person. Place one foot slightly in front of the other for balance. Footing and balance are extremely important because if you cannot dislodge the object they will lose consciousness, you need to prepare to guide the person to the ground without harming them or yourself. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly.
  2. Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person's navel, but below the rib cage.
  3. Grasp the fist with the other hand. Pull hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person up.
  4. Perform between six and 10 abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
  5. If you are the only rescuer, perform abdominal thrusts before calling 911 or your local emergency number for help. If another person is available, have that person call for help while you perform first aid. If the person becomes unconscious, perform standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if properly trained. If untrained, perform chest compressions if you are comfortable doing so.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself

  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Although you will be unable to effectively talk, you can still perform abdominal thrusts to dislodge the item.
  2. Place a fist slightly above your navel.
  3. Grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface — a countertop or chair will do.
  4. Shove your fist inward and upward.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on someone who  pregnant, or you cannot get your arms around:  

  1. Place the person against a wall and face them.
  2. Position your hands a little bit higher than with a normal Heimlich maneuver, at the base of the breastbone, just above the joining of the lowest ribs.
  3. Proceed as with the Heimlich maneuver, pressing hard into the abdomen, with a quick thrust.
  4. Repeat until the food or other blockage is dislodged. If the person becomes unconscious, follow the next steps.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on an unconscious person  

  1. Lower the person on his or her back onto the floor, arms to the side.
  2. Clear the airway. If a blockage is visible at the back of the throat or high in the throat, reach a finger into the mouth and sweep out the cause of the blockage. Do not try a finger sweep if you can't see the object. Be careful not to push the food or object deeper into the airway, which can happen easily in young children.
  3. if the object remains lodged and the person does not respond after you take the above measures, begin chest compressions only. The chest compressions used in CPR may dislodge the object. Remember to recheck the mouth periodically.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on an infant younger than 1 year  

  1. Assume a seated position and hold the infant face down on your forearm, which is resting on your thigh. Support the infant's head and neck with your hand and place the head lower than the trunk.
  2. Thump the infant gently but firmly five times on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand. The combination of gravity and the back blows should release the blocking object. Keep your fingers pointed up to avoid hitting the infant in the back of the head.
  3. Turn the infant faceup on your forearm, resting on your thigh with the head lower than the trunk if the infant still is not breathing. Using two fingers placed at the center of the infant's breastbone, give five quick chest compressions. Press down about 1 1/2 inches, and let the chest rise again in between each compression.
  4. Repeat the back blows and chest compressions until if breathing resumes.
    In all of the mentioned choking situations, 911 needs to be called as soon as possible. Even if the obstruction is easily dislodged by one of the mentioned processes, the person should always be checked out by medical personnel.


A dental injury is considered any trauma that has occurred to a permanent tooth. If a person has suffered from a dental injury or a tooth has been displaced, the person should rinse the tooth with milk or water and try to place it back in its original location. If it cannot be placed back in its socket, then place it in warm water or milk.  Get to a dentist as soon as possible in any dental emergency situation.  The most important variable affecting the success of reimplantation is the amount of time the tooth is out of its socket.  Teeth re-implanted within one hour of the accident frequently reattach to their sockets.


As we’ve learned, when it comes to first aid, there is a lot to remember. However, one of the most important things you can do to help remains calm, assess the situation, and stabilize yourself, or the individual until trained professionals arrive.