First Aid: Falls From Height, Spinal Injuries and Manual In-line Stabilisation

Every day in the UK 2-3 people will suffer spinal cord injuries. While some of these are caused by non-traumatic causes, the majority are caused by road traffic incidents, falls or sporting activities. Falls from height are one of the most prevalent causes of work-related injuries and deaths, responsible for over 20% of deaths in the past year.

infographic outlining primary surveyWhat Are The First Steps in Handling an Injury?

Where a serious fall from height is suspected, or, due to the type of incident attended spinal injuries are suspected, it is important to ensure the area is safe before any first aid is administered. Remember the primary survey:

  • Danger – Make sure the surrounding area is safe
  • Response – Check is the casualty is responsive or unresponsive
  • Airway – Check the airway is open and clear
  • Breathing – Check the casualty is breathing normally
  • Circulation – Check for signs of bleeding,

Once the first aider is happy there is no danger to them, the casualty or anyone else, they can continue to check the casualties’ levels of response and then their airway.

What Should Be Prioritised?

Airway and breathing are a priority, so if the first aider needs to open the airway as normal in an unresponsive patient to check for breathing then this should be carried out. If the casualty is conscious or is breathing normally then it is important to minimise movement of the head and neck as much as possible.

The first aider can achieve this by kneeling or laying behind the casualty and supporting their head in a neutral position, known as Manual In-line Stabilisation (MILS). If possible, padding should be placed either side of the casualty to minimise any movement.

Should The Recovery Position Be Used?

first aid training showing class how to do the recovery positionMovement of the casualty should then be kept to a minimum. If a first aider is on their own and needs to leave the casualty to call the emergency services or assist anyone else, then they should be turned onto their side, the same is true if an airway cannot be maintained.

If a first aider is alone, then the normal recovery position can be used trying to minimise head and neck movement. If others are available, the Log-roll technique can be used.

Understanding first aid practices and what how to respond in an emergency could help to save lives and prevent long-term injury. Learn how to handle accidents and emergencies with our QNUK accredited First Aid At Work course – learn more here.

Falls from height can potentially cause life-changing or even life-threatening injuries – prevention is absolutely essential. We’re currently running a limited time offer on our Working at Height and Ladder Safety courses, suitable for any employees working at height. Enter the code ‘height10’ at checkout to save for this month only.

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