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Creating and Implementing an AED Program in the Workplace
There are many injuries and illnesses that can occur on the job if adequate safety precautions, policies and procedures are not put in place. While many of the articles in this magazine will highlight hazards that result in injuries to extremities, respiratory systems or vision, there are still some health issues that can arise at work that might not be entirely job-related, for example: sudden cardiac arrest.
What is a sudden cardiac arrest? Well, it is easy to get this confused with a heart attack, which is when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, but it is different. Sudden cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness, according to Mayo Clinic. The condition usually results from a problem with your heart’s electrical system, which can disrupt your heart’s pumping action and stops blood flow to your body.
Sudden cardiac arrest may stem from health issues that are not entirely job-related. Common heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, enlarged heart, valvular heart disease and electrical problems with the heart can result in sudden cardiac arrest, but even people with no heart disease at all can find themselves in a position where they begin to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest.
You may think sudden cardiac attacks happen pretty infrequently, but you would be wrong. According to the American Heart Association, there are more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually in the U.S. and nearly 90 percent of them are fatal. It is estimated that of those out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, the survival rate of the victims increases exponentially if the people around them are trained in CPR and the use of AEDs compared to just CPR alone.
While it is pretty commonplace for workers to have received training on CPR at least once in their lifetime, it is less common for someone to have received training on the use of AEDs. In this article, we will talk about AEDs in the workplace: training workers to properly use them and creating an effective AED program that will dramatically increase the survival chances of a worker at your facility who might find themselves suffering from a cardiac arrest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we jump into creating and implementing an AED program in your workplace, let’s first answer some of the most common questions associated with AEDs.
What is an AED? AED stands for “automated external defibrillator.”
What does an AED do? An AED is a device designed to analyze the rhythm of the heart and deliver an electric shock to victims of sudden cardiac arrest to restore normal function or restart the heart. The AED will first analyze the victim’s heart rhythm, and then audio or text prompts will tell the rescuer how to proceed. If defibrillation is necessary, the device will warn responders to stay clear of the victim while the shock is delivered. If CPR is indicated, the AED will instruct the rescuer to continue performing CPR.
Can I harm someone by using an AED? An AED is designed to be used on someone who is suffering from a cardiac arrest. It may be an individual’s only chance of survival. Thanks to built-in sensors and safety features, AEDs will not deliver unnecessary shocks.
Do AEDs expire? While AEDs do not expire, the batteries and pads do. The importance of preventative maintenance and service on your AED cannot be overstated. When an AED is needed, time is of the utmost importance. You want to be sure that AEDs are fully operational and incompliance with local laws at all times.
Where is the best place to keep my AED? AEDs should be accessible and in plain sight. An AED can’t save a life if it cannot be found.
Creating an Effective AED Program
There are a few things to keep in mind when creating an AED program for your company and workers. These components include designating a program coordinator, understanding state and local requirements, notifying local EMS and placing and maintaining an AED.
Designating a program coordinator. The first step in creating an effective program is choosing a point person who will manage the day-to-day activities and concerns of the program. This person will be responsible for communicating with key decision markers, facility employees and emergency responders about the program. Assigning a program coordinator can help to identify any potential barriers to the implementation of the process and can create overall advocacy for the program—which is highly needed to get the job done right.
State and Local Requirements. Before implementing an AED in your workplace, you will need to check the requirements at both the state and local level. Though each state has its own requirements, most specify what type of training is required, how to work with your state and local EMS services and how to maintain and renew your AED program.
Most state laws require:
- A state licensed physician to act as a medical supervisor of the program
- Notifying local EMS of AED programs or registering your AED program with EMS
- Responders to complete a nationally recognized training CPR/AED course for lay responders
Notifying EMS. Most states require facilities to have an open conversation with local EMS when it comes to the implementation, management and development of procedures for an AED program. Think of EMS as your personal AED partner. Key issues to discuss with local EMS include:
- The location of on-site AEDs.
- Written policies and procedures for the transfer of workers who need defibrillation to local EMS.
- Some states require employers to share data from their AEDs to their local EMS regardless of the type of AED used. Ask about EMS existing protocols to ensure this is done correctly.
Placing and Maintaining AEDs. While it is impossible to guess where a sudden cardiac arrest may happen, you can place AEDs in a spot that is most accessible to workers and responders. The most strategic way to place an AED is to identify the locations where incidents may be high, such as in a corporate health club, high traffic area, cafeteria or other meeting spaces. Additional locations could be at a security guard station, next to a first aid cabinet or at a main reception area.
As stated previously, preventative maintenance of AEDs is key to an effective AED program. The American Heart Association recommends the following checklist for maintenance of AEDs.
- Verify placement of AEDs and ensure the device is highly visible.
- Verify battery installation and expiration.
- Verify the expiration of the AED’s pads and that the pads are connected to the unit and sealed in their package.
- Check the status and service of the indicator light.
- Check to make sure all supplies, including razors, towels, barrier devices and scissors are included in the AED.
Ensuring Workers are Properly Trained
So, now that you understand the importance of an AED and how to create a program that allows for the effective use of the AED, you must turn to those who will be using the device. It is important that those who are on-site learn how to use the AED for the best chances of a victim’s survival.
Due to the size of your facility, it may not be realistic for all employees to be trained to use the AED. It is best to designate employees who operate throughout the day on the premises and already respond to emergencies as part of the job, such as security guards and members of safety response teams.
Training requirements can be determined easily by reviewing the acceptable curricula, training organizations and renewal intervals from your state or local laws. A few examples of what an on-site responder might need to know following his/her training includes:
- How to recognize the warning signs of cardiac arrest.
- How to respond to an emergency.
- Why and how to activate local EMS.
- How to buy time for the victim by performing CPR until the AED can be used.
- How to assess the patient and determine whether an AED should be used.
Upping Your Safety Game
While there is no hard and fast way of knowing if you will have to deal with a sudden cardiac arrest at your facility, there are ways to be prepared if the incident does happen on your watch. By creating and implementing an effective CPR/AED program, your organization have all the tools they will need to increase the chances of survival should a worker suffer cardiac arrest on the job.
This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
About the Author
Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.