Knowing how to deal with a first aid emergency in your store can mean the difference between life and death, says Gaelle Walker

Even with the best health and safety policies in place it's not impossible for mishaps and medical emergencies to occurin your store.

Where your staff are concerned, just a minor lapse in attention can result in a fall from a step-ladder, a burn from a bread oven, or a nasty cut while opening an outer case. And from heart attacks to faints, falls, or even labour, customers can become ill and in need of your help, too, so it's vital that you know what action to take particularly if you are in a rural area where emergency service assistance might not be as speedy as you would wish.

Over the next couple of pages our easy-to-follow guide will show what to do in a variety of possible emergencies until professional help arrives.


Make the casualty as comfortable as possible. Pour copious amounts of cold water over the burn for at least 10 minutes, or until the pain is relieved.

While wearing disposable gloves, remove jewellery or clothing from the affected area unless it is sticking to the skin.

Cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material such as cloth, cling film, or even a clean plastic bag, to protect from infection. Do not use adhesive dressings.

If the burn is larger than a postage stamp it will require medical attention. All deep burns of any size require urgent hospital treatment.

Minor cutsand grazes

Wash and dry your own hands and put on disposable gloves.

Clean the cut, if dirty, under running water.

Pat dry with a sterile dressing or clean lint-free material.

Cover the cut completely with a sterile dressing or plaster.
Dial 999 for an ambulance and then help the casualty. 

Give 30 chest compressions, pressing down by four to five centimeters, at a rate of 100 per minute. 

Prepare to give two rescue breaths. 

Ensure the airway is open.

Pinch nose firmly closed. 

Take a deep breath and blow into the casualty's mouth until the chest rises. 

Remove your mouth and allow the chest to fall. 

Repeat once more. 

Continue resuscitation cycle and do not stop until emergency help arrives or the casualty breathes normally.

  Head injuries

All head injuries are potentially serious and require proper assessment because they can result in impaired consciousness. Dial 999 for an ambulance, or see that the casualty is taken to hospital.

Heart attack and stroke

The symptoms of a heart attack go beyond just chest pain. Casualties can also feel discomfort high in the abdomen similar to indigestion, breathlessness, nausea and/or vomiting. Also look out for ashen skin and sweating.


Dial 999 for an ambulance immediately.

Sit the casualty down in the 'W' position: Sitting up at about 75 degrees to the ground, with knees bent.

If the casualty is fully conscious:

Check if the casualty has any medication for angina, and assist them to take it.

If the casualty becomes unconscious:

Open the airway and check breathing and be prepared to start CPR if necessary. Please refer to the tips on CPR for adults.


Stroke victims can  display facial and arm weakness as well as speech problems.

Dial 999 and try to keep the casualty as calm as possible until professional help arrives.

Fractures and breaks

Dial 999 for an ambulance.

Give lots of comfort and reassurance and persuade the casualty to stay still.

Steady and support the injured limb with your hands to stop any movement.

If there is bleeding, press a clean pad over the wound to control the flow of blood. Then bandage on and around the wound.

If you suspect a broken leg, put padding between the knees and ankles. Form a splint by gently, but firmly, bandaging the good leg to the bad one at the knees and ankles, then above and below the injury.

If it is an arm that is broken, improvise a sling to support the arm close to the body.

Do not give the casualty anything to eat or drink in case an operation is necessary.

Severe bleeding

Put on disposable gloves.

Apply direct pressure to the wound with a pad or fingers until a sterile dressing and bandage are available.

Bandage the wound or dressing firmly to control bleeding, but not so tightly that it stops the circulation to fingers or toes. 

If bleeding seeps through first bandage, cover with a second.

Raise and support the injured area. Take particular care if you suspect a bone has been broken.

Lay the casualty down to treat for shock.

Recovery position

An unconscious casualty who is breathing, but has no other life-threatening conditions should be placed in the recovery position: 

Turn casualty onto their side. 

Lift chin forward in open airway position and adjust hand under the cheek as necessary. 

Check casualty cannot roll forwards or backwards. 

Monitor breathing and pulse continuously. 

For information about first aid and courses visit the St John Ambulance website:, or the NHS:

If the casualty is unconscious, put them in the recovery position (see p24) and call 999.

If the casualty is just feeling faint, get them to lean forwards with their head between their knees, or lie down with their feet raised above the level of their head.


Keep the mother as calm as possible and dial 999 for an ambulance.

If you have time, get her on to a clean hard surface.

Try to get her up in a squatting position.

Remind her to breath deeply and push when she feels like pushing.

Do not attempt to pull the baby out when you see the top of its head. It should be born in the next few pushes.

As soon as the baby's head is out, clear its nose and mouth of fluids by stroking gently downwards on the nose and mouth.

Hold the baby securely with the head at a 45 degree angle to allow the fluids to drain from the nose and mouth.

Do not pull or cut the umbilical cord until emergency assistance arrives.

Keep mother and baby warm.