What is an AED and why is it Important?

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Increased access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) could save lives in the workplace.One out of every 7.4 people in the U.S. will die from sudden cardiac arrest, according to the “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association” published in AHA Journals. However, research shows that increased access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) could save as many as 40,000 lives each year, according to the National Safety Council.

While many states and the federal government have mandated AEDs in public buildings, private companies have been slower to adapt. Sudden cardiac arrest can be caused by a heart attack, electrocution, or asphyxiation, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Because sudden cardiac arrest can strike at any time, OSHA encourages employers to provide AEDs in the workplace.

“Having an AED installed within the workplace brings peace of mind and lifesaving ability,” Bob Risk, senior strategic, safety, health and preparedness manager, Staples Business Advantage, wrote in a 2016 article titled “Automated external defibrillators at work” for Safety and Health Magazine.

Online emergency management degree programs such as Eastern Kentucky University’s Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management can prepare safety and security professionals to deal with numerous workplace safety issues, including implementing plans to provide AEDs.

What Does an Automated External Defibrillator Do?

An AED is a portable lifesaving device that can help a person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. When a person’s heart stops beating unexpectedly, rescuers can place the AED the person’s chest to deliver an electric shock to the heart to restart it, according to the American Heart Association (AMA).

Sudden cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, and can cause death in a matter of minutes. Providing quick access to AEDs can help save lives.

“The application of electricity stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm,” Dr. Jacob Hollenberg, a cardiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told Reuters Health in the article “Onsite defibrillators helping to increase cardiac arrest survival.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, members of the public are able to access defibrillators in public places such as:

  • Airports
  • Community centers
  • Schools
  • Government buildings
  • Hospitals

The AMA recommends placing the lightweight defibrillation devices in any public or private areas where large groups gather, including workplaces.

“An AED is simple to use, and you cannot do harm. With simple audio and visual commands, they are designed to be simple to use for the laypersons,” Hollenberg said.

How Security and Safety Professionals Can Integrate AEDs into Companies

Although occupational health and safety rules and regulations do not require defibrillators in a private workplace, OSHA recommends having the devices readily available on jobsites. Roughly 400 workers die on the job due to cardiac arrest, OSHA said, but some 160 lives could be saved annually if defibrillators were available in the workplace.

“Although AED deployment is not required everywhere, safety managers should consider it an expected level of care within any public domain,” Risk wrote. “It’s far easier to prepare for an emergency than to have to explain why you didn’t.”

Health safety and security professionals can incorporate defibrillators into private offices by following these OSHA-approved steps:

  • Designate which employees will use AEDs in emergency situations.
  • Train those employees on proper use of an AED, including following manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Place AEDs in areas of the workplace that can easily be accessed within three to five minutes of cardiac arrest.
  • Be sure that in-office AEDs are inspected, tested, and maintained as noted in the manufacturer’s specifications.

However, the first step office safety professionals should take is to ensure compliance with local, state, and industry regulations when adding a defibrillator to the workplace, according to EHS Today, a magazine for safety professionals. Proper placement of AEDs in the workplace is crucial to saving lives, according to OSHA.

To be sure that workers can easily access the defibrillators, OSHA recommends placing the device in these areas:

  • Assembly lines, office buildings, and other places on-site where people work close together
  • Confined spaces
  • Anywhere electric-powered devices are used
  • Outside job locations where lightning is possible
  • Health units where workers may seek treatment for heart attack symptoms.
  • Company fitness centers, cafeterias, break rooms, and other frequented areas of the office
  • Remote workplaces including offshore drilling rigs, construction projects, marine vessels, power transmission lines, and energy pipelines

Many AEDs are designed in such a way that anyone can use the device without training. However, OSHA recommends that workers be trained on AEDs to reinforce correct usage and overall usefulness of the device.

According to OSHA, the chances of survival from sudden cardiac death decrease by 7 to 10% for every 60 seconds without the use of an AED or CPR.

“This is a relatively simple intervention, the provision of CPR training and providing an AED,” Dr. Michael Kurz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and an American Heart Association spokesperson, told NPR. “A relatively simple intervention that has a rather significant return on investment, both in lives saved and, frankly, on the impact on your employees.”

About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management Program

Keeping professionals up to date on developments in occupational safety, emergency management, and disaster resilience is a crucial part of EKU’s online emergency management degree program.

The program allows students to customize their experience through a Multidisciplinary Track or with concentrations in Corporate Security Operations, Occupational Safety, or Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience.

The concentrations are also available as stand-alone graduate certificates, independent of a master’s degree. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission accredits EKU. For more information, contact Eastern Kentucky University now.

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Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association: AHA Journals

Greater Access to AEDs Could Save 40,000 Lives Each Year: National Safety Council

Saving Sudden Cardiac Arrest Victims in the Workplace: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Automated external defibrillators at work: Safety and Health Magazine

What Is an Automated External Defibrillator?: American Heart Association

Onsite defibrillators helping to increase cardiac arrest survival: Reuters Health

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Cardiac Arrest and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): OSHA

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): OSHA

Are You Prepared to Address Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Your Workplace?: EHS Today