Having a Heart

This year, ensure you keep AEDs at the work site and train the team in their use.

I’m typing this column smack dab in the middle of February, a month we often associate with heart-shaped boxes of candy. However, February also marks a month-long heart health and heart attack awareness campaign, American Heart Month, which encourages individuals, especially women, to focus on their cardiovascular health.

Why is that important? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. men and women, as well as most racial groups in the United States. Every year, 805,000 Americans have a heart attack, 605,000 of them for the first time, according to the CDC.

Moreover, approximately 10,000 cardiac arrests occur in the workplace each year in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). And what are the fatality rates in heart attack victims if treatment isn’t provided until emergency response arrives? Waiting for emergency medical system personnel to save the worker results in only a 5 to 7 percent chance of survival, according to OSHA. If that isn’t a sobering statistic, then I don’t know what is.

The benefits of CPR training are clear: According to the AHA, when bystanders apply CPR immediately during a cardiac arrest that is occurring in a location that isn’t a hospital (such as the workplace), they can double or triple the victim’s chance of survival. That’s a huge boost.

But there’s another piece to workplace heart attack response, and that’s automated external defibrillators (AEDs). AEDs analyze a victim’s heart rhythm for ventricular fibrillation, the uncoordinated heart rhythm that is most often responsible for sudden cardiac arrest. The AED then delivers an electric shock to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal.

When CPR is combined with the early use of an AED, a victim’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest can increase substantially. To illustrate, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology examined 13,769 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occurred between December 2005 and May 2007 and found that 38 percent of victims who received CPR and an AED shock from bystanders survived all the way to hospital discharge.

AEDs should be a regular component of any workplace’s first aid readiness and emergency response. The devices are small and light and typically cost between $1,200 and $2,500 (with some units touching $3,000 on the outside). The cost to get AED training is on par with CPR training costs, and good sources for combined CPR/AED training include the AHA, the American Red Cross, and local community centers or hospitals, which will provide certifications upon completion.

Suffice it to say, if you want to spread the love during Heart Month, adding AEDs to your workplace safety program is a great way to let the team know you care.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

David Kopf is the publisher and executive editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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