Caltrans > Please press the "Back" button on your browser to return to the previous page

DHR - SAFETY ALERT MEMO 03-02

DATE: February 26, 2003

INCIDENT TYPE: Choking

LOCATION: District 2

TYPE OF WORK ACTIVITY: Eating lunch

THE ACCIDENT: Last week during a lunch break, three employees were eating in the crew room. As a normal practice, an employee took out some raisins, loosened them up with a finger in the package, shook them into his hand, and threw a handful of them into his mouth with his head back, as he had done many times in the past. This time the results would be much different. One of the raisins got lodged in the windpipe, in his throat. Knowing there was something wrong he immediately stood up trying to get his breath, which didn't happen. He went into the bathroom, put some water into his hand thinking it may dislodge the blockage, but once again that didn't work. He said he thought he would use the sink to give himself the Heimlich maneuver, but was not sure if that would work, he was getting desperate now.

From the crew room, another employee heard some noises, and gasps for air that he knew were not normal, which sounded like that employee was trying to get air. He walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, saw that the employee's face was red, and knew he was having problems breathing. He asked the employee if he was all right. He couldn't talk but did shake his head no. He thought the employee was ready to go down, so he grabbed him around the waist, and made a couple of thrusts using the Heimlich maneuver. He was a little too high the first couple of times, but moved his hands, and arms down under his ribs, and thrust again. This dislodged the blockage, and the employee was free to breathe normally again. This employee was very thankful to his crewmember for his fast actions, and would like his efforts to be recognized.

CONCLUSIONS: During a discussion about the incident with the employees, they brought up a very good point. We all do a lot of training for CPR, First Aid, Haz. Mat, etc., and after taking these classes a few times we seem to attend them, and just go through the motions. This incident reminded us all that we should give some thought to the reason we are scheduled for training, that the "other guy" may be you, and we all would like to have a positive ending like we had in this emergency situation. The "other guy" on this day was sure glad his co-worker was paying attention in his first aid class.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Please review the following information on the Heimlich Maneuver:

The Heimlich Maneuver for Choking:
A choking victim can't speak or breathe and needs your help immediately. Follow these steps to help a choking victim:

  1. From behind, wrap your arms around the victim's waist.
  2. Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim's upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
  3. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage; confine the force of the thrust to your hands.
  4. Repeat until object is expelled.

Unconscious Victim, or when Rescuer Can't Reach Around Victim: Place the victim on back. Facing the victim, kneel astride the victim's hips. With one of your hands on top of the other, place the heel of your bottom hand on the upper abdomen below the rib cage and above the navel. Use your body weight to press into the victim's upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Repeat until object is expelled. If the Victim has not recovered, proceed with CPR. The

Victim should see a physician immediately after rescue.

Don't slap the victim's back. (This could make matters worse.)

HEADQUARTERS OFFICE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY SERVICES (916) 227-2740

For individuals with disabilities, documents may be obtained in alternative formats and other assistive services are available. To obtain such services, please call (916) 227-2640. TTY users may also call: 711 or 1-800-735-2929.

OPO HomeSend email to OPO WebmasterCaltrans