While CPR is an extremely valuable technique, sometimes it's just not enough. That's where having an automated external defibrillator (AED) onsite could mean the difference between life and death. An AED is a medical device that's used to restore the natural rhythm of the heart. It does this via an electric shock and is one of the best emergency treatments during sudden cardiac arrest -- when the heart, without warning, abruptly stops beating. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that survival rates as high as 90% have been reported when defibrillation occurs within one minute of a person collapsing from sudden cardiac arrest.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that approximately 10,000 sudden cardiac arrests happen in the workplace every year. It's the leading cause of death in the workplace, yet only 4% of the seven million businesses in the U.S. have an onsite AED. The lack of an AED in the workplace is a shockingly (pun intended) sad statistic. The national survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest is less than 7%. However, if an AED is used in conjunction with CPR, that survival rate skyrockets to more than 70%!
Not only response time, but preparation is key to saving a life. There needs to be a specific plan of action for employees who witness someone having sudden cardiac arrest to call 911 or other emergency medical services (EMS), start CPR, use an AED if available, and provide as much information as possible to emergency personnel when they arrive.
When it comes to emergency cardiovascular care (ECC), the American Heart Association provides a useful term -- Chain of Survival. The five links in the adult Chain of Survival are:
- Immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
- Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions
- Rapid defibrillation
- Effective advanced life support
- Integrated post-cardiac arrest care
Of course, an AED is just like any other piece of equipment. Not all workplaces may be able to afford an AED or have an employee who is willing to take on the challenge of motivating and educating other employees in its use. Company representatives should assess the needs of their organization and whether an AED is necessary or expected. For example, a busy manufacturing facility is vastly different from a gym or a small office setting. In addition, AEDs require a prescription from a physician for purchase and placement in the workplace and there needs to be compliance with state laws on public access defibrillation and the federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act.
Finally, should a company decide to install an AED, here are some simple guidelines:
- Worksite integration: Not all employees will want or need to be trained on how to use an AED, but they should all be prepared to notify company personnel who are trained and emergency responders if an employee suffers sudden cardiac arrest.
- Selecting the right AED: While all the devices on the market work, it's still important to comparison shop like you would for any other product and also buy one that's appropriate for the environment in which it will be placed.
- Placement: Consider the logistics of where the AED might be used. Don't buy 10 AEDs if you only need five to be effective. Proper planning can reduce expenses while increasing effectiveness.
- Maintenance: Like any piece of safety equipment, AEDs require maintenance. If a company has a specific person or third party that monitors its other safety equipment, then this is an easy add-on to the list.
- Training: There are two types of training -- initial and ongoing. Besides teaching employees CPR and AED skills, it's equally important to have refresher courses and to educate people on how to apply these life-saving skills in an emergency situation.
Investing in an AED, and the programs associated with it, is a commitment to protect the lives of those in the workplace.