In the March issue of Industrial Safety and Hygiene News we discussed automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and the key components in building a successful AED program. A leading cause of death in this country, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) takes a heavy toll on workplaces, accounting for 13 percent of workplace deaths, according to OSHA.

It is important to strategically place AEDs so they can be just minutes from anyone, anywhere in the workplace, given that survival rates decrease seven percent to ten percent every minute without defibrillation. Although not everyone can be saved from sudden cardiac arrest, studies show that survival rates as high as 74 percent are possible (up from the national average of six percent) when defibrillation is provided within three minutes of collapse.

Some workplace areas may present unique challenges for AED placement. By doing your research about types of AEDs and accessories available, you can tailor your choice to the needs of specific location(s) as well as the anticipated skill level of the rescuers in that area.

Environmental factors

Your business may have widely varying areas in which people work, including heavy industry, outdoor or mobile locations, and executive offices. Be sure to consider the following environmental factors when evaluating the defibrillation needs of diverse locations in your company.
  • Ruggedness. Is it possible the AED could be dropped on a hard surface (e.g., manufacturing floor) or banged around in the moving vehicle of a television, cable or utility crew? Evaluate the ruggedness ratings provided by the manufacturer before making a selection. Be sure to review any available accessories, such as a hard carrying case that can provide additional protection for the AED. Lighted, alarmed wall cabinets can also make sure AEDs are visible and can help protect them from damage and theft.
  • Noise level. Does the area have high noise levels, perhaps even requiring workers to wear hearing protection? One benefit of AEDs is that they provide voice and visual prompts telling rescuers exactly what to do next. In a noisy environment voice prompts may be difficult or impossible to hear. An AED with a screen that provides visual, written directions and prompts may be the appropriate choice for locations with high noise levels.
  • Exposure to weather. Many defibrillators are placed indoors in buildings or covered spaces, such as parking garages, where weather is not a concern. However, if you have outdoor areas in part of your plan, be sure to evaluate the range of temperatures and level of water and dust exposure the AED may need to endure, or consider adding an accessory such as a protective case.

Rescuers’ skill level

AEDs were created especially for use by non-medical personnel with minimal training (CPR and AED class), with the goal of making lifesaving defibrillation readily available to anyone experiencing SCA. That said, not all defibrillators are alike. It is important to anticipate the training and skills level of the most probable responders for different areas.
  • First responders may be trained emergency medical services technicians, registered nurses, physicians or others. Some companies have trained medical professionals on staff, either as employees or as members of the medical team in the occupational health clinic. Such companies may want to acquire AEDs with a screen enabling the rescuer to view the patient’s ECG. This enables rescuers to more fully evaluate the patient’s condition and accurately report the patient’s status to the arriving emergency medical services personnel.
  • Companies with occupational health clinics onsite may also wish to have a manual defibrillator available for transport to the patient’s side after the AED is deployed. Designed for use by medical personnel with advanced training, manual defibrillators/monitors also house advanced monitoring and diagnostic features, such as oxygen saturation and noninvasive blood pressure.
  • In many areas, potential rescuers will not need the more advanced features of the devices described above. A “simple” user interface is sufficient, one that instructs the user in what to do, step by step, and can provide defibrillation (along with rescuer CPR) when indicated until the advanced life support team arrives to take over. When making the decision about AED choices, consult with your local EMS. They can provide advice and inform you which devices are compatible with the ones they carry on their rigs.

Seek assistance

It is obvious defibrillation technology has come a long way since defibrillators were first made portable for use in ambulances in 1968. With the growth of the field of emergency medicine, the advances in technology and the willingness of consumers to become more “tech-savvy,” as well as CPR/AED trained, many more lives can be saved from sudden cardiac arrest.

Implementing an AED program, especially if your facility is large or has multiple locations, can seem daunting. That is why some manufacturers offer consultation about their family of products that can meet the needs of potential rescuers and patients across your entire organization, as well as a total solution with training, medical oversight and direction, and program management.

If you are you ready to implement an AED program for your employees and visitors, consult with manufacturers and your local experts in emergency medical care. With their help, the power to save a life is truly in your hands.