Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many employers are putting new measures into place to keep their employees safe. However, as a result of the new social distancing focus, other aspects of workplace health and safety, such as first aid education and qualifications, may be being accidentally overlooked.

Accidents can happen at any time or place, including at home, at work or out in public. As many of us slowly return to the workplace after months of working from home, accidents can easily happen, and some can quickly escalate into life or death situations.

Our FAIB-accredited First Aid Training Courses are designed to make it easy to train your company’s first aiders, with both the 1-day emergency course and the 3-day first aid course can be delivered on your business premises or at one of our UK locations.

Our courses educate employees on how to handle a wide range of specific work-related situations – such as how to handle choking, wounds, burns, and more – as well as teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for adults, children, and babies.

Katie Campbell works with Skills Training Group as a First Aid Trainer and has been delivering courses all over the UK for the past 13 years. She explains choking statistics, signs that someone is choking, and how to properly administer back blows and abdominal thrusts. Read on to find out more…

Choking statistics

Choking happens when someone’s airway suddenly gets blocked, either fully or partly, so they can’t breathe. This can occur when a piece of food, an object, or a liquid blocks the throat.

About 300 people die every year from choking and thousands more admitted to hospital due to choking.

The elderly are most at risk of choking to death, and choking is fast becoming one of the biggest causes of accidental death for under 5s. However, all ages can be at risk.

Signs that someone is choking

Back blows and abdominal thrusts would be utilised if you suspect a casualty is choking. When it comes to the signs of choking, the face normally turns red, the person may grip and point towards the neck, they probably cannot complete full sentences, and they may be coughing excessively or may not be able to make a sound at all.

Step-by-step instructions

Knowing how to react in these situations is important. Here are three simple steps to follow if you suspect a casualty is choking:


Step 1: Back blows

Lean the casualty well forwards (over the knee if a small a child) and give up to 5 sharp blows to the middle of the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

Step 2: Abdominal thrusts

Stand behind the casualty and wrap your arms around their waist making a fist with one of your hands, and using the other to grab it. Sharply pull inwards and upwards 5 times.

This technique, previously known as the Heimlich manoeuvre, applies sudden strong pressure on the abdomen, between the navel and the ribcage, in order to dislodge the obstruction.

Step 3: Call 999

Repeat cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the blockage dislodges, help arrives, or the casualty becomes unresponsive. If you can’t call 999, make sure someone else does.


When performing abdominal thrusts, most rescuers do not pull with enough force – remember, we want to try and force a lodged object out of the airway! However, the NHS advises that abdominal thrusts can cause serious injuries. Therefore, abdominal thrusts should not be given to babies under 1 year old or pregnant women, and a health professional (such as your GP or a doctor in A&E) should always examine someone after they have received abdominal thrusts.

In addition to these tips, St John’s Ambulance has a great video resource for how to save a choking baby. Babies can easily choke on small objects – in case you ever find yourself in this situation, the video explains that “if your baby is choking, lay them face down on your thigh and give up to 5 back blows. If that doesn’t work, turn them over and give them up to 5 chest thrusts. If that still doesn’t work, call an ambulance”.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date, but it’s possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing.