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How to help someone having a stroke or heart attack at work

May 23, 2022
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You never know when a heart attack or stroke may strike. Every year, thousands of Americans have heart attacks at work, and someone in America suffers a stroke every 40 seconds.

Do you know the symptoms of these serious conditions? Understanding the signs of a heart attack or stroke can help you take fast, decisive action if a co-worker, an employee or even a customer shows signs of distress.

This is critical because receiving quick assistance diminishes the long-term impact of a stroke and increases the odds of reopening the blocked artery in a heart attack. American Heart Month in February is the perfect time to brush up on tips for recognizing and responding to heart attacks and strokes.

Recognizing signs of a stroke at work

Strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. To recognize signs of a stroke, use F.A.S.T.:

  • Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does the smile look lopsided?
  • Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise their arms. Does one slump down?
  • Speech: Ask the person a question. Do they slur or make no sense when they answer?
  • Time to call 911: If you see any of these things, call 911 and say you suspect a stroke. The person needs to be taken to a hospital right away.

Other signs of stroke may include sudden onset of numbness, difficulty walking or seeing, and confusion.

Responding to signs of a stroke at work

After calling 911, record the time you saw the first symptoms and keep talking to the person until the ambulance arrives. They can lie down, but don’t let them eat or drink. If the person loses consciousness and stops breathing, perform CPR. A 911 operator can talk you through this.

Recognizing signs of a heart attack at work

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked. Men and women often exhibit different symptoms when having a heart attack.

In women, you might see:

  • Pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness.
  • The most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort, although women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms listed here.

In men, you might see:

  • Chest pain, discomfort or fullness, often mistaken for heartburn. It may last for a few minutes or it may go away and return.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or discomfort in one arm, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness.

Responding to signs of a heart attack at work

Call 911 immediately if you suspect a heart attack. Give the person an aspirin, unless they are allergic to the drug. If they become unconscious, perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator if one is available.

Embrace CPR training

Consider empowering your employees with a lifesaving skill: CPR. Offer conventional CPR certification at your workplace, and promote what the American Heart Association calls hands-only CPR. It’s CPR without breaths and it can be used if you see a teen or an adult suddenly collapse in a work/home/park setting.
Quick action can save a life in the case of a heart attack or stroke. Share these tips with your employees too, so everyone in your workplace is prepared.

Visit our Safety Hub for more information on safety services and training options.

Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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