Make It Possible to Save Every Employee

A well-thought-out AED program can spell the difference between life and death.

Every organization has diff erent characteristics and safety challenges that must be considered when starting or enhancing an automated external defi brillator program. Only then can a workplace determine how many AEDs to purchase, where to place them, and how many employees to train.

Factors to consider include workplace square footage, the number and location of employees, hours of operation, and the type of work performed. A wellthought- out AED program can make it possible to save every employee, even workers who are mobile or who work in remote locations and small groups.

Dave Bingham, director of AEDs and training for Cintas First Aid and Safety, says some companies need their AEDs to be portable so they can accompany workers on trucks or to be rugged because they are used outside or around heavy equipment. Also, employees may work routinely in pairs or in small groups in remote locations; others may work late-night shift s with just a few other people. AEDs can be made available to these employees, as well, he adds.

Only about 5 percent of the 400,000 sudden cardiac arrest victims in the United States are saved each year. The American Heart Association (AHA) says as many as 50,000 more lives could be saved annually if AEDs were more widely available.

Certain types of businesses have special challenges. For example, hotels have guests and workers — often alone — on the premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making the training of key employees and the response plan vital. Bert Cattoni, owner of Cardiac Rescue Systems, has helped to deploy AEDs on water vessels for the benefi t of crew members who are traveling for days or weeks to far-flung locations. “There’s no way an ambulance is going to arrive on time to a vessel and make a save,” Cattoni said. “These fellows are generally in remote locations in between towns, left to their own devices in an emergency.”

Once you consider the special characteristics of your workplace, there is one rule of thumb to follow, the AHA’s “3-minute” rule. It states that, by briskly walking from any location within a workplace, you should be able to get an AED and bring it to the aid of a sudden cardiac arrest victim within three minutes.

AED and Good Samaritan Laws

Organizations also should become familiar with the AED laws eff ective in the states where they operate. Right now, only one state, Oregon, has a mandate requiring workplace AEDs, requiring one in each workplace with 50,000 square feet or more of floor space where 25 or more individuals are present on a normal business day. Many other states, however, have passed legislation either mandating or encouraging AEDs in public places, such as government buildings, schools, and fi tness centers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site (www.ncsl.org/).

Chris Chiames, executive director of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, says there may be a “ripple effect” of states applying mandates to workplaces, or companies with Oregon facilities may decide to apply that state’s standards across the country to achieve a consistent corporate standard.

State laws also may influence an organization’s decisions about employee AED/CPR certifi cation training. In an eff ort to encourage training, some states withhold Good Samaritan liability protection to untrained users in situations where AEDs are not used correctly. While some states have recently extended Good Samaritan protection to untrained users, a comprehensive training program increases the chances of a successful life save in your workplace and reduces potential liability.

Implementing AEDs Across Many Locations

Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you may want to provide training to a few or several employees, or to many more. “I always recommend 10 percent of the workforce,” said Bingham, adding online training is making this option more viable. “Sometimes, there’s a tendency to under-train. AEDs are simple devices, that’s true, but that doesn’t diminish the need to train people — you need training to instill the fundamental aspects and make response instinctive.”

Cintas recently trained more than 2,000 staff ers from a major national company during a two-month period. Judy Kerlin, a Cintas national account manager, said some of the trained employees work in diffi cult circumstances in response to natural disasters. For example, some went to Haiti aft er the earthquake, and others to Louisiana aft er Hurricane Katrina. Having AED/ CPR training prepares them to respond to sudden cardiac arrest immediately, even when assistance is not available.

To ensure the presence of trained staff at all times, Darren Boser, a paramedic and AED program specialist at AED Solutions, recommends training employees from each shift and location. Large companies often choose to have one centralized department oversee AED deployment according to corporate policies and procedures, he said. Boser recently assisted McCain Foods Limited, one of the world’s leading food companies, to deploy about 75 AEDs at 51 locations in the United States, Canada, South America, Africa, China, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Of McCain’s 20,000 employees worldwide, more than 1,340 have received AED/CPR training.

Ken Firchow, McCain’s director of global safety, said the availability of AEDs in the company’s facilities was sporadic until an employee collapsed aft er an asthma attack and was not successfully revived with CPR alone. This incident spurred the company to encourage all of its locations to invest in AEDs through its global distributor.

AED Maintenance, Program Review

Whether you decide to outsource maintenance or do it on your own, current AEDs are designed to be easily maintained and perform self-diagnostics at scheduled intervals to ensure rescue readiness. Some devices support the latest AHA CPR guidelines.

If an employee in your workplace suffers sudden cardiac arrest, you will have only a few minutes to spell the diff erence between life and death. By having properly maintained and well-placed AEDs, you give the trained responders in your workplace the best chance possible to be successful.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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