Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 220,000 lives each year. Of those 220,000 about 10,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur at work and more than 95% of victims die before reaching the hospital.
According to OSHA, sudden cardiac arrest occurs when ventricular fibrillation takes place or when the heart stops beating altogether. Without medical attention, a victim collapses, loses consciousness, becomes unresponsive and can die. Many victims have no prior history of heart disease and are stricken without warning.
Causes of sudden cardiac arrest include; heart attack, electrocution, and asphyxiation (loss of consciousness due to lack of oxygen, such as in a confined space).
Installing AEDs in your workplace and implementing a proper program can help to drastically improve the chances of survival for your employees. AEDs or automated external defibrillators are medical devices designed to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to victims of ventricular fibrillation to restore the heart rhythm to normal. Having AEDs on site saves precious treatment time and can improve survival odds (as much as 60%) by treating victims before EMS arrives.
Below are steps you can take to ensure your AED program is effective:
1) Consult with Medical Professionals
The FDA may require a physician's prescription to purchase an AED and it is a good idea to consult with a physician as you begin to build your program. They can assist by providing guidelines and recommendations on program size, characteristics, training plans, policies and procedures. Additionally, most states require employers to coordinate their AED program with local EMS to provide follow-up data to EMS after the device is used. Beyond the requirements, it is a good idea to build a relationship your local emergency medical services in the event of an incident.
2) Perform a Walkthrough to Determine Needs
After you have met with a physician the next step is to review the recommendations and work with a safety expert to determine the amount and proper placement of AEDs in your facility. It is recommended that AEDs be conveniently installed, clearly visible and easy to access to ensure response time within 3-5 minutes. Some areas where AEDs should be placed include:
- Areas where many people work together such as assembly lines and offices. - Close to confined spaces (risk of asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen). - Areas where electric-powered devices are used. - Outdoor worksites where lightning may occur. - Health unites where workers may seek treatment. - Company fitness centers and cafeterias or break rooms. - Remote sites, such as off-shore drilling rigs, construction projects etc.
3) Choose Your AED Provider
Once you have documented the amount of AEDs and recommended placement, it is time to choose your AED provider. There are many providers of AED equipment out there and it is important that you choose the right one. Look for providers that make easy-to-use devices, that are good quality and have positive reviews. Secondly, make sure they offer technical support and are responsive in the event of an issue or emergency. Third, ask if they offer assistance with program implementation, including placement, medical authorization, registration and supplies.
4) Develop a Training Plan
Once a provider has been selected and the equipment is installed, you need to develop a comprehensive training plan for your employees. Training should include how to use the AED as well as how to properly administer CPR. Comprehensive training will increase the confidence of your employees and ensure they use the equipment and techniques properly.
5) Raise Awareness of the Program
Along with training you should also provide information to employees about the program and the plan moving forward. Using internal newsletters, magnets, signage and other means can help promote the program throughout your organization. It is also a good idea to clearly point out where the AEDs are located and provide a map as a reference point.
6) Perform Ongoing Maintenance
Once your program is established it is recommended that you have someone visually inspect the AEDs weekly or monthly to ensure they are working correctly. This is in addition to regularly, more detailed inspections that should be performed by the manufacturer or a third party periodically. Also, work with your AED provider to understand any software updates that are scheduled and want you need to do to prepare for them.