OSHA is promoting the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in workplaces. The agency has issued a fact card and a technical information bulletin on the use of AEDs, encouraging employers to take advantage of this life-saving technology.

Lightweight and rechargeable, AEDs analyze the heart rhythm and automatically indicate when to administer the shock. The mechanisms can save the lives of workers who experience cardiac arrest while on the job. Each unit costs from $3,000 to $4,500.

"Administered within three minutes, the electric shock (defibrillation) restores the normal rhythm to the victim's heart and can increase survival rates from less than 5 percent to nearly 75 percent," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "Immediate defibrillation can revive more than 90 percent of victims."

Each year 300,000 to 400,000 individuals die from cardiac arrest, reports OSHA. Most of these deaths occur outside hospitals. Cardiac arrest is often due to chaotic beating of the heart, which can be restored to normal rhythm if treated promptly with defibrillation.

Placing AEDs in workplaces could significantly increase survival rates. In 1999 and 2000, 815 of 6,339 workplace fatalities reported to OSHA resulted from cardiac arrest. The agency estimates if AEDs helped restore 40 percent of those who suffer a cardiac crisis, as many as 120 lives would be saved each year.