Cardiac Arrest: Empowering Readiness

Cardiac Arrest: Empowering Readiness

Understanding the crucial role that AEDs play in workplace emergency preparedness.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, statistics reveal a troubling reality: a workplace injury occurs every seven seconds in the United States, totaling 5,250 fatal injuries and 2.8 million non-fatal injuries each year.

Workplace injuries and risks vary by industry but all workplaces should prepare for potentially fatal and unexpected incidents such as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). According to the AHA, more than 356,000 cardiac arrests occurred outside of the hospital, and unfortunately 60 percent to 80 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. Studies show that more than 10,000 SCAs specifically occur in workplaces every year.

This alarming rate highlights the need for robust safety preparedness plans specifically to address the potential for sudden cardiac arrest. Central to these plans is the integration of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) because an AED is used to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest can strike without warning across all demographics, making the availability and effective use of AEDs crucial in drastically improving survival chances in life-threatening situations. There are many things to consider when preparing for unexpected emergencies like sudden cardiac arrest, including what regulations you need to follow, what to consider when selecting an AED, what the optimal placement of an AED is, what maintenance requirements there are and what training needs to be conducted to ensure safer communities and workplaces.

Understand Workplace Standards

The foundation of any workplace safety program is adherence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, which are designed to minimize hazards and ensure worker safety. Employers and safety managers should fully understand and enforce OSHA standards along with any additional relevant industry-specific regulations, and stay up to date OSHA laws and regulations, as well.

In addition to OSHA, other standards like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provide guidelines that help organizations exceed basic legal requirements and enhance safety measures. Following and ideally exceeding ANSI guidelines will help businesses prevent workplace injuries that could lead to potential injury, fatality or litigation. Make sure you continue to stay up to date on regulatory requirements for your workplace because regulations can change. In addition to guidelines varying by industry, AED requirements may vary by state so if you have facilities that are in more than one state, guidelines may be different.

The Importance of AEDs in Saving Lives

AEDs are a crucial component in responding to sudden cardiac arrest events. As mentioned above, sudden cardiac arrest can happen unexpectedly to all demographics and an AED is used to assist victims when sudden cardiac arrest strikes with little or no warning. An AED is a lightweight, portable device designed to deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart. This shock can potentially stop an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 9 in 10 cardiac arrest victims who receive a shock from an AED in the first minute live and your chance of survival while waiting for emergency medical services during a cardiac emergency decreases by 10 percent every minute without CPR.

Selecting the Right AED

Choosing the right AED involves several factors. It is important to select a device that is simple to use, with clear instructions that can assist an untrained bystander in performing life-saving measures. Modern AEDs provide step-by-step voice commands and visual aids to guide the rescuer through the process. Features to consider include the ease of maintenance, battery life, and the availability of pediatric settings or attachments if the device will be placed in an environment frequented by children. Make sure you are selecting an AED that is easy to use so even an untrained bystander can follow the prompts. These types of AEDs help responders deliver CPR by providing text, voice, and visual guidance as well as real-time feedback on compression rate and depth.

Placement and Accessibility

AEDs should be easily accessible and placed in locations where they can be quickly reached during an emergency. The standard is that AEDs should be accessible within three minutes from any location within a facility. 

Strategic placement of AEDs is critical for effective emergency response. AEDs should be placed in community areas like schools, gyms and athletic facilities, large offices, and shopping centers. In workplace environments, optimal placement for AEDs involves high-traffic and easily accessible areas such as main lobbies, large office spaces, conference rooms, employee cafeterias, and near elevators in corporate buildings and business complexes. They should be clearly marked and placed where anyone can access. Avoid placing an AED in areas that are not always available like a locked office or enclosed cabinet. If you are storing in an enclosure or cabinet, it should be clearly labeled and easy to open by anyone if needed.

Maintenance and Regular Checks

Maintaining an AED is essential to ensure its functionality in an emergency. Regular maintenance checks are highly recommended and should include inspecting the battery level, ensuring pads are sealed and within their expiration date, and confirming that the device software is up to date. Many AED models now come equipped with self-testing features that alert the owner if there is a problem. Make sure that you are conducting regular maintenance checks so all of the components required during an emergency are working properly.

Training and Empowerment

The data is clear: training your employees to immediately intervene with CPR and an AED can help save lives.

In a study of Public-Access Defibrillation (PAD), communities with volunteers trained in CPR and the use of AEDs had twice as many victims survive compared to communities with volunteers trained only in CPR. While AEDs are designed to be used by anyone, training helps increase confidence and efficiency in an emergency situation. CPR and AED training sessions are widely available through many organizations like the American Heart Association and the Red Cross. These sessions not only teach an individual how to use an AED but also how to perform CPR.

Creating an Emergency Response Plan

There are many types of emergencies that can happen in the workplace that you need to be prepared for. AEDs, first aid kits, rescue systems, fire protection equipment, and personal protective equipment are all common emergency preparedness products that help you be prepared when a medical emergency occurs. Make sure you have all the appropriate medical emergency equipment on hand, available to work as intended and have an emergency response plan that ensures safety and efficiency when unexpected situations arise. 

An effective emergency response plan is more than just having an AED on site. It involves training staff and volunteers, conducting regular drills to rehearse the response to a cardiac emergency, and ensuring clear signage and communication about the location and use of AEDs. Organizations should also have policies in place for regular training refreshers and equipment checks.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves

Incorporating AEDs into emergency preparedness plans goes beyond meeting health and safety requirements — it represents a vital commitment to preserving human life. Equipping people and organizations with the necessary tools and knowledge to effectively tackle cardiac emergencies can save lives and promote a culture of safety and preparedness. By prioritizing access, maintenance, and training, communities and organizations can genuinely prepare to manage life-threatening situations.

Workplace injuries and hazards differ across industries, but all settings must be equipped to handle severe incidents such as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Despite having robust safety measures in place, organizations must be ready to address various types of workplace injuries and unforeseen events. AEDs play a critical role in this readiness. 

The availability of AEDs, along with compliance with regulatory standards and ongoing training, significantly enhances a workplace’s ability to respond effectively to emergencies. Therefore, it is crucial for workplaces to continuously review and improve their emergency response strategies to ensure they are well-prepared to act during critical moments.

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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