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DRABC | Guide & Definition

Two men carrying out first aid on injured worker on site.
 

What Does DRABC Stand For?

 

DRABC stands for Danger, Response, Airways, Breathing & Circulation and is used in first aid, as a method of remembering the steps that should be followed when performing an initial assessment of a casualty.


Used in all first aid cases to assess the situation, the DRABC is an essential acronym that all employers, employees and members of the public should learn to understand the first steps that need to be taken during the initial assessment of an emergency.


The DRABC acronym is used to help save lives and offers a structured response for all casualties before the ambulance team arrives. You must learn what to do for each step to accurately and safely assess the situation.

 

 

What is the DRABC Method in a First Aid Primary Survey?

 

The first aid primary survey is used to quickly yet carefully assess the casualty and determine what to do. The DRABC method provides people with a specific set of steps that must be taken in that order to help assess the situation.


The DRABC method and primary survey are both designed to allow non medical people the ability to safely perform first aid in the case of a work or non work emergency that needs instant attention before the medical help arrives. The DRABC method provides everyone with an easy to learn acronym to help in any life threatening situations.


If you correctly follow the DRABC steps during the primary survey, it could save someone’s life and so it is vital that you fully understand the acronym and know what to do when carrying out the steps. The steps are in a certain order to help assess the health complications that are priorities and which may cause a fatality the quickest.


 

Man carrying out first aid on injured worker

What is a Primary Survey?

 

The primary survey provides a fast way to assess the situation and determine how to treat the casualty and the life threatening condition depending on the outcome of the DRABC. The DRABC ensures that the most serious health complications are assessed in order of priority to ensure the casualty is well cared for until the medical professionals arrive.


The primary survey is based on the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programme which is used by medical professionals and incorporates a longer set of steps with the acronym DR C ABCDEFG in hospitals since the 1980s.


The primary survey was created to provide non medical professionals with the correct information and steps to follow for vital first aid, to help save lives in any emergency cases that can occur anywhere, at any time. It ensures everyone can assess and treat the risks to life in order of priority depending on the problem that has arisen, whether it is a cardiac arrest, choking or another serious health complication.


Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) is a program aimed at equipping doctors with the necessary skills to manage acute trauma cases effectively. It provides a standardised approach to trauma care, focusing on the initial assessment and treatment of trauma patients to ensure they receive immediate, optimal care​.


 

When Should a Primary Survey be Used?

 

A primary survey should be used in instances when the person encounters another who has suddenly become seriously ill or is injured. These situations can be due to obvious causes such as a fall or workplace accident, but can also occur due to non obvious causes such as underlying health conditions, in which the person may collapse or become unresponsive.


The primary survey should be used in various cases including but not limited to:


  • Cardiac arrest or other heart problems

  • Stroke

  • Blunt force trauma

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Choking

  • Electrocution

  • Extensive blood loss


If an incident occurs in the workplace, there should be a fully trained first aid responder appointed by the employer, who will be the one to perform the primary survey to assess the situation.


This employee must have completed 18 contact hours of first aid practical training. If the appointed responder is unavailable then a competent employee must perform the primary survey as all employees should know the DRABC acronym.


 

Man checking airways of injured worker

The 5 Steps of DRABC

 

The DRABC steps are easy to follow once you have learned the acronym. Along with the acronym, it is important that you keep calm, call for help and receive regular training to ensure your knowledge is up to date.


This is what the 5 steps of DRABC include:


Danger

The first step in the primary survey, this requires you to check the surrounding area for any potential danger and hazards to ensure it is safe for you to approach, and that the person is also safe. You must observe the area and identify any risks to you or the casualty such as broken glass, fire or smoke, chemicals, debris, a live electrical current and anything else that could cause danger.


You must then make the area safe by removing these dangers before you are able to attend to the casualty. If you are unable to make the area safe, you must call an ambulance and wait for help to arrive.

 

Response

Once you have safely cleared the area and approached the casualty, you must then check for responsiveness. Speak to the casualty, ask what happened and try to get a response.


The acronym AVPU is helpful and stands for the following:


Alert – Is the casualty alert and responsive? Are they talking or moving? If no, move on to V.

Voice – Talk to the casualty using a loud voice while being in their eye line. If there is no response, move on to P.

Place – Place your hands on the casualty’s collarbone or shoulders and shake firmly. Continue speaking and say you are a first aider trying to help. If there is still no response, move on to U.

Unresponsive – If there has been no response throughout all steps, the casualty is unresponsive. You must now move on to the rest of the DRABC acronym.

 

Airways

The next step is to check if the airways of the casualty are clear or blocked. You must find out why the casualty is unresponsive and the next few steps will help to eliminate or reveal the cause.


If there is a blockage and the casualty is unresponsive you must not put your fingers in the mouth but instead perform a combination of back slaps and abdominal thrusts to try and remove the blockage. If the casualty is responsive, encourage them to try and remove the blockage by coughing or using their hands.


If there is no blockage, move onto the next step.

 

Breathing

You must now assess the casualty’s breathing by tilting their head back and observing any chest movements. Put your cheek to their mouth to see if you can feel breathing and assess the rhythm and pace of the breath for at least 10 seconds.


If the casualty is not breathing normally, an ambulance must be called and if the first aid trainer is able, CPR can be performed. If they are breathing normally, move them into the recovery position and move onto the next step.

 

Circulation

This step should only be taken if the casualty is breathing independently.

You must check if there are any signs of severe bleeding. If there is, you must apply pressure to the wound which will control and treat the bleeding.


If they are unresponsive, breathing normally and there is no bleeding, put them in the recovery position and wait for medical help to arrive.

 

 

What to do After DRABC?

 

Once you have completed all of the DRABC steps and if the casualty is safe and responsive, you can perform the secondary survey. This helps provide you and the medical professionals with any helpful information regarding the incident such as who the casualty is and what happened. This cannot be performed on unresponsive casualties in which case you must wait for medical assistance.


You will need to ask the casualty what happened and how it happened. You should also ask if they have any pain or other symptoms that will need attending to once the ambulance arrives. You also need to perform an examination which involves checking the casualty from head to toe for any broken bones, swelling or discolouration which must be declared to the medical professionals.

 


CPR Training on test dummy


The Importance of DRABC in the Workplace

 

It is vital that all employers and employees learn and understand the DRABC steps to be used in any cases of emergency. As the HSE states, employers have a duty of care to ensure all workers are healthy and safe at all times in the workplace. Therefore the DRABC provides essential first aid training to attend to any injuries and accidents to help save lives and assess the situation and manage life threatening conditions.


There are also DRABC first aid training courses that employers should provide to ensure the workplace and people within are always safe and know what to do in cases of emergency.


The HSE also states that employers must provide adequate equipment, facilities and training to ensure employees receive fast and competent attention for any accidents in the workplace. DRABC is a simple acronym that can save lives and therefore is an extremely important addition to any training to keep everyone safe at work.

 

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