How Tyson Foods Deployed AEDs

The company's corporate early defibrillation program succeeded because of strong involvement at all levels. More than 6,000 employees have been trained.

ACCORDING to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, striking more than 340,000 people each year, or 930 people each day. Defibrillation, which shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm, is recognized as the definitive treatment for ventricular fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm most often associated with SCA. While CPR can help prolong the window of survival after cardiac arrest, it cannot restore a normal rhythm.

For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival decrease by about 10 percent, so rapid defibrillation is critical in restoring a normal rhythm in these cases. After 10 minutes without defibrillation, few attempts at resuscitation are successful.

With the development and widespread dissemination of automated external defibrillators, more lives may be saved through more rapid intervention with CPR and life-saving AED defibrillation than has been seen in the past with traditional EMS response. AEDs are portable medical devices that have been created with the non-medical users in mind. They give clear, easy-to-follow voice commands that coach users through each step of the defibrillation process. When AEDs are readily accessible, they make it possible for almost anyone to save a life when SCA occurs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that in 1999 and 2000, 13 percent of fatalities within the workplace were the result of SCA. Since 2001, OSHA has encouraged employers to consider making AEDs available in the workplace. It is estimated that if AEDs helped revive 40 percent of workers who suffer SCA while on the job, a significant number of lives could be saved annually.

At Tyson Foods--a company with more than 114,000 team members--we took steps to improve these statistics, at least for our team members. Having experienced sudden cardiac deaths within the company, we came to the conclusion that it was appropriate to bring defibrillator technology into the Tyson workplace. In conjunction with a large team consisting of management, safety, production, and health services team members, we implemented a company-wide early defibrillation program to enhance our ability to provide immediate emergency care for SCA victims.

Choosing a Defibrillator
The first step in the process was to choose an AED provider. We reviewed the devices of a number of different vendors as a part of the selection process and chose one model because it has an uncluttered design that enables fast, efficient operation by responders in an intense emergency situation. In addition, its biphasic technology provides effective defibrillation at lower energy levels, which prevents undue damage to the victim's heart muscle.

Beyond the device, we were impressed with the manufacturer's willingness to support us with developing and implementing all of the tools we needed to put a robust early defibrillation program in place. The company assigned a team of specialists to assist Tyson team members with program and policy development, site survey assessments, training, implementation support, and ongoing support for the maintenance of the program. Our direct relationship gave us peace of mind that any potential question or issue could be resolved quickly, in part because we were dealing directly with the manufacturer, making it easier to get solutions to problems quickly.

Tyson's early defibrillation program was implemented in June 2003, 10 months after the initial decision to move forward. The roll-out was conducted in two phases; the first phase brought 150 devices into our chicken, beef, and pork processing plants and our corporate offices. In the second phase, we added additional units into other facilities, based on site assessment surveys conducted by the facility RN manager and/or a representative of the manufacturer. In this phase, AEDs were also deployed in the facilities that support plant operations, such as hatcheries, feed mills, and tanneries.

The initial implementation included preparation of a company-wide policy for use by each facility, which we felt to be a critical element for success of the program. This allowed each facility to implement the program in conjunction with the local EMS providers while at the same time providing consistent responses within the Tyson system. We also ensured that our implementation plans met all pertinent local, state, and federal requirements.

Our facilities conducted initial CPR, first aid, and AED training with an established, national training program provider. The first step of the training program was to build a "Train the Trainer" component that consisted of a series of courses to prepare those who would in turn be providing CPR/AED and first aid training to AED team members at each Tyson site. The nurse managers at each facility attended these courses. For any site without a nurse manager, the facility sent a shift nurse, safety manager, or other team member to attend.

Once each of the team members completed the "Train the Trainer" course, the nurse manager/supervisor (or designated trainer) conducted initial CPR, first aid, and AED training for members of the emergency response team at each site. Tyson required training of all emergency response team members and opened up the sessions to any other interested employee. Training courses were set up around the country and were divided by region. To date, more than 6,000 employees worldwide have been trained.

Our AEDs were installed once the training was complete and team members would be familiar with the device. Placement of the units was designed to provide a three-minute response time and convenient access during an emergency. AED units are stored in a cabinet with an AED placard at each location.

Deployment included notifying local EMS teams of the presence of AED units in Tyson facilities and the development of "response maps" so that if EMS personnel needed to respond to the plant, they would know exactly which entrance and door to the facility to use to shorten response times.

Company-wide Support
The program implementation was a success largely because of strong involvement and support at all employee levels, from top management to plant team members. Senior executives managed the deployment and offered encouragement and feedback to everyone involved. Regional nurse managers oversaw deployment of the units. Plant managers, AED site coordinators, facility regional nurse managers, and plant nurses created an AED response team that would be ready to respond to emergencies.

The support we received from the manufacturer during the implementation and beyond also has contributed to the continuing success of our program.

Ongoing Maintenance
Rolling out a program is only the first step in what will be an ongoing process. Our facilities conduct retraining for CPR, first aid, and AED use annually. They offer initial training to any new member of the AED response team, which is also available to any interested Tyson employee. Each plant also conducts periodic response team drills to help fine-tune the process, familiarize local EMS with our plant facilities, and identify issues in each plant that will help provide smoother and faster device deployment in the event of an emergency.

The AED site coordinator or other team member (as designated by the site coordinator) is assigned to check the AED device on a weekly basis, after each event and training session. The AED site coordinator also refers to the defibrillator's user's guide for detailed instructions for responding to each maintenance task. The AED weekly maintenance checks are documented on a checklist.

Looking Ahead
At Tyson, we view our workforce as our most valuable resource, and our commitment to an early defibrillation program is just one way that we provide for the safety and well-being of our employees. Though such a comprehensive program in a company of our size is no small expense, management is committed to this endeavor and continues to provide funds to maintain a pre-eminent program.

This article appeared in the April 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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