Unfortunately minor cuts and scrapes are a part of everyday life. While these are more common around the home, they do from time to time happen in the workplace. If a wound is deep, has something embedded in it or bleeds heavily you should seek immediate medical attention. Most businesses have a policy regarding accidents in the workplace and while there are legal obligations for the employer regarding health and safety, including a responsible dedicated first aider (ideally trained) there are instances where simple steps can help minimise even the smallest of injuries to prevent infection.
Clean the wounded area
If you are treating someone, where possible clean your hands with soap and water first. If that isn’t possible use some kind of antibacterial wash or wipe. If you have clean hands you will minimise any additional contamination.
Clean the cut or scrape with cool water to remove dirt and debris. Hold the wound under running water or pour clean water over it from a cup. Use soap to clean the wound or again antibacterial wipes.
You don’t need to use stronger cleaning solutions to treat minor cuts and scrapes, water or wipes will suffice. Cool clean water should be fine for cleaning the wound. Anything stronger than that may further irate the injury.
Stop any bleeding
Smaller lacerations, cuts or abrasions usually stop bleeding on their own. A small amount of blood in some cases can help clean out the wound. Certain areas, such as the hands or head may bleed more than other areas due to the number of blood vessels. Don’t panic, just try and clean the area and then gently apply firm, direct pressure using a clean cloth or gauze – any clean dressing will do.
Continue to hold the pressure steadily. If blood seeps through the dressing, just put more on top and keep applying pressure. Resist the urge to check on the wound by lifting the cloth; any movement may cause the wound to start bleeding again.
If the cut is on their arm or hand, it may help slow the bleeding by raising it above their head. If however the cut begins to spurt blood or the area doesn’t stop bleeding after 3 minutes, seek medical advice. Most of the time it will slow down and stop as the body reacts to the injury. Remain calm at all times. While you need to ensure the bleeding stops with a certain level of pressure you also need to make sure the injured person doesn’t panic and risk further injury to themselves or others. Make them as comfortable as possible.
Cover the injury
In the work environment it is best to cover any cuts or scrapes to help prevent infection, once the bleeding has stopped. Check that the wound is clean and then if available apply antibiotic ointment or cream (eg – Savlon) – thinly over the area to help keep the area moist and prevent scarring. Cover it with a sterile bandage or a gauze pad and some tape. Most businesses have a first aid kit readily available at a central point and it is in everyone’s best interests to cover the wound as soon as possible. If the area is small and unlikely to get dirty or rubbed by clothing, the injured person may wish to leave it uncovered. While this may be ok in some cases it would be wise to remind them that they risk reopening the wound if it gets knocked. Depending upon the size and area of the wound they may need to change the dressing or bandage once a day if it gets dirty, remind them that they would be wise to do so to minimise risk of infection.
Make sure you report this to a supervisor or the designated first aider on site. You should also make a note of it in the accident book. As an employee you have a responsibility to the company to report any accidents regardless of outcome or presumed risk.
Most minor cuts and abrasions don’t need consultation. They do need to be reported though in the work environment. If you can’t find the dedicated first aider, you will need to seek medical support if:
- The edges of the cut are jagged or gape open, the cut is deep (1/4 inch or more), or you can see fat or muscle. These are signs that they may need stitches.
- The wound is on their face.
- If the wound was caused by something rusty or very dirty.
- If you can’t get all of the dirt or debris out of the wound.
- The wound is from an animal or human bite.
- The injured area feels numb and seems to be spreading.
- They have a puncture wound or a cut and haven’t had a tetanus jab in the past 5 years.
Keep an eye out for Infection
Any wound that doesn’t heal normally should be reported to the doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms can include;
- Redness, swelling or extreme warmth
- Pus or leaked fluids from the cut
- An increase in pain
- Red streaks around the wound
The healing process
Typically scrapes and small cuts should heal within a few days. This normally happens as a scab forms over the area. This scab protects the wound from germs and dirt while new skin grows underneath. Once the scab has formed, they may not need the bandage or dressing any more. Although the wound will itch over the days that follow, it is best to recommend that they not scratch or pick at the scab. The scab will fall off of its own accord when the skin is replaced.
First aid qualifications are essential for any organisation. They may also be extremely useful at home, especially when you have young or elderly relatives. TutorCare offer a wide range of courses that cover the above and much more. With accreditation from awarding bodies such as QUALSAFE and CIEH employees and employers would both benefit from attending any of the following courses;