Safety Tips Workplace Solutions First aid/AEDs Office safety

Automated external defibrillators at work

Many states require that an automated external defibrillator (AED) be onsite in all public buildings and doctors’ offices. How can an AED help keep my employees safe?

Responding is Bob Risk, senior strategic, safety, health and preparedness manager, Staples Business Advantage, Framingham, MA.

Did you know that, according to the American Red Cross, sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 350,000 people each year? Even though emergency response teams can be at your location within 8 to 12 minutes after a 911 call is made, the chance of surviving SCA is reduced 7 to 10 percent each minute that defibrillation is delayed. Although employers plan for a multitude of potential scenarios that could threaten the safety of employees, they often overlook cardiac arrest. SCA can strike anywhere and at any time, and it’s up to workplace safety managers to prepare for the worst.

Although SCA is a leading cause of death in the United States, it is not currently addressed in an OSHA standard. This oversight can leave safety managers unprepared if an employee is stricken with SCA in the workplace.

The most effective way to restore a person’s heartbeat is to use an AED in conjunction with CPR. When CPR and an AED are administered to a victim within the first two minutes of a cardiac event, the chances of survival increase 90 percent. AEDs have become the most reliable and successful pre-hospital treatment available to victims of SCA, especially because they are easy to operate by people who lack medical experience.

Having an AED installed within the workplace brings peace of mind and lifesaving ability. But before purchasing and installing an AED, safety managers must ensure compliance with any local, state and industry regulations. For example, not all states – including Hawaii and Maine – are currently required to provide an AED within the workplace. On the flip side, New York mandates that all public buildings must have an accessible AED onsite. Each state employs its own legislation when it comes to safety codes and requirements, and this includes AED availability and training. Safety managers must do their homework to understand the regulations within their geographic location.

That said, a comprehensive workplace safety plan isn’t just about knowing and following statutory requirements. An element of common sense is needed when it comes to the development as well. Beyond state regulation, managers should consider employee expectations, level-of-care mandates and ramifications. Combined, these considerations make for a strong argument to install an AED on campus not only to check the box of workplace safety, but to assure employees that safety is being considered.

A doctor is not always present when health scares happen, so AEDs are designed with the average person in mind. Due to technological advancements, automatic and semi-automatic AED systems have become increasingly easier to use. With self-training modules, real-time audio instruction and maintenance schedule reminders, AEDs should not be intimidating. Liability should never be a deterrent to assisting with the use of an AED, and Good Samaritan laws are in place nationwide to offer protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or who they believe to be, injured, ill or in peril.

The expectation of a safe work environment lies within the organization and its safety management team, who work hard to prepare for any situation that could threaten the well-being of employees. Although AED deployment is not required everywhere, safety managers should consider it an expected level of care within any public domain.

It’s far easier to prepare for an emergency than to have to explain why you didn’t.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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