Not too long ago, for most of us, the only place we saw defibrillators was on TV emergency room shows (or, of course, in emergency rooms themselves). But now, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming standard features in the workplace.
Here's what you need to know about these livesaving devices:
Fast facts. According to federal statistics, up to 15 percent of workplace fatalities are caused by cardiac arrest. (That's about 10,000 people a year.) Survival rates decline 10 percent for every minute without defibrillation. In most major U.S. metro areas, emergency responders typically take longer than five minutes to arrive at the scene—and that time can be further delayed in workplace settings. All these together mean that on-site AEDs can make a huge difference.
Training is key. If your people don't know how, or are afraid to use an AED, obviously it will do little good. And since the machine works by delivering a powerful electric shock—with lives at stake—such fear and reluctance is understandable. New AEDs are remarkably easy to use, giving an operator detailed and almost-foolproof instructions. But training is still required so that your people will know when to use the machine—that is, when cardiac arrest occurs.
Where the risks are. Your team members also need to be aware what unique risks may be present in your workplace that may prompt cardiac arrest, such as sudden exertion (for example, on the loading dock); electrocution from equipment malfunction or lightning strikes; or asphyxiation in confined spaces. That's in addition to the usual health risk factors one finds in any workplace—employees who are overweight, have high blood pressure and cholesterol, suffer from extreme stress, and so on. Wherever the most people are present in your workplace— including customers—is where you should be best prepared for responding to cardiac arrest.
What about CPR? That's important, too, and you should do what you can to get as many of your people trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as possible. Indeed, many already may be CPR-trained—particularly your younger workers—and you don't know it. The best lifesaving response is to perform CPR, contact emergency personnel and provide defibrillation with an AED.