The Heimlich Maneuver: A Crucial Component of Workplace Safety


No matter what kind of business you are in, the threat of choking is one you need to be concerned about. Whether it is a customer at your restaurant whose airway is obstructed by food they have been served, or an employee in your break room choking on their lunch, you should be prepared. That is why it is so important to include Heimlich Maneuver training as part of your workplace safety procedures.

This simple maneuver has been shown to be an effective way to remove blockages and restore airflow to choking victims. It takes no special medical training, and can be performed by men and women, young and old alike. If you are invested in the safety of your employees and customers, you need to educate yourself on the Heimlich Maneuver.

Identifying a Choking Victim

It is important to differentiate between a person who is choking and someone who is simply coughing or having trouble breathing. These are a few of the symptoms to look for.

  • The victim is unable to speak
  • Breathing is labored and wheezing
  • There is an involuntary cough or vomiting sound
  • The victim clutches their throat and attempts to remove the obstruction with their fingers.
  • Their face turns blue and they lose consciousness

Any one or all of these may be symptoms of a choking victim.

Techniques for Performing the Heimlich Maneuver

Before performing the Heimlich Maneuver, encourage the choking victim to cough, and strike them forcefully on the center of the back. If this fails to dislodge the obstruction, it will be necessary to initiate the Heimlich Maneuver. These are the steps for performing it safely and effectively.

  • Position yourself behind the choking victim, and wrap your arms around their waist.
  • Form a fist and place your hand, thumb side in, directly above the victim’s navel. Grab the fist tightly with your other hand.
  • Pull the fist inward and upward forcefully to create air pressure behind the obstruction.
  • If the victim is laying down, straddle them facing their head and perform the same movements discussed above.

Keep in mind that it may take several thrusts to remove the obstruction, and the victim may experience bruises or even broken bones as a result of the emergency treatment. For this reason, it is not safe to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on victims younger than a year old. Victims should seek out professional medical attention after their breathing is restored.

Keeping Your Employees Prepared

Make Heimlich Maneuver training a part of the new employee orientation process, especially if you run a business in the food service industry. Once your staff understands what to do, make sure they are looking out for signs of choking and prepared to take action in the heat of the moment. Put up signage and other reminders about the importance of workplace safety and the most important steps to take in an emergency. With the right preparation, you can protect everyone at your business from the unexpected.

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