Surviving cardiac arrest: Do I need a defibrillator at work?
Failure to have a defibrillator at work does not automatically trigger liability for business and building owners. However, the power of these machines has left many business owners wondering: ‘Do I need a defibrillator at work?’
In the UK, while there is no mandatory requirement for you to have a defibrillator at work, there are strong arguments for investing in this potentially life-saving equipment. This is especially so if risk factors indicate the need for on-site first aid provisions such as AED machines.
In this blog, we explore the arguments for defibrillators in the workplace and let you know how to get a defibrillator at work. Finally, we talk about how smart technologies are revolutionising defibrillator monitoring and ensuring these machines are in good working order whenever you need them.
Do I need a defibrillator at work?: A risk management question
What is a defibrillator and why do I need one?
A defibrillator or automated external defibrillator (AED) machine is a portable device that’s used to administer a shock to people who have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. This machine is both simple to use (it does not require any prior training and can be used by bystanders) and sophisticated – able to determine whether the cardiac rhythm in question is capable of being corrected by defibrillation.
According to the British Heart Foundation, there are more than 30 000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year – emergency events that require resuscitation from emergency medical personnel. Only one in ten people survive. Time is of the essence when a cardiac arrest occurs. Early CPR and defibrillation double the chance of survival. In fact, survival rates reduce by 7 to 10% every minute following a sudden cardiac arrest. How bystanders react – and the presence of defibrillators – play a vital role in the outcome of these emergency medical events.
The risk of not having a defibrillator at work
As mentioned above, there is no legal requirement to have defibrillators in the workplace. However, the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations place a statutory requirement on employers to ensure there are required equipment and facilities on their premises to provide first aid to employees should they fall ill or require first aid at work.
This requirement does not extend to members of the public. However, businesses that provide public access to defibrillators are becoming more and more prevalent. Additionally – and very importantly – the HSE recommends that certain businesses have defibrillators and that others perform a needs assessment to determine whether they need one. This needs assessment considers:
- The public access of a workplace and its surrounds (the more people, the greater the chance of cardiac arrests).
- The age of those people as the risk of cardiac arrest increases with age.
- Location (including factors like remoteness and accessibility by emergency services).
Whether your business is required to perform a needs assessment or not, the HSE also recommends that the public is taken into account when employers assess their first aid provisions. That said, an increasing number of businesses are getting defibrillators as an act of community concern – in the knowledge that they can mark a turning point in an emergency.
Give thought to the following when working out whether to invest in a defibrillator at work.
- Any elevated risk of sudden cardiac arrest (e.g. as has been observed in fitness centres and gyms).
- Average age of your workforce.
- Whether the premises experience high footfall from members of the public.
- The size of the business.
- The remoteness of the premises.
- The presence of lone or vulnerable workers.
This guidance has been reiterated by guidelines from the Resuscitation Council. The position put forward international guidelines seems to suggest that public access defibrillators should be installed when:
- The probability of AED use is at least once every two years.
- The arrival time of an ambulance to the site is longer than five minutes.
- The time between the sudden cardiac arrest and the arrival of the AED machine to the site is less than five minutes.
Employers are also not legally required to provide defibrillator training. However, First Aid at Work courses and Emergency First Aid at Work courses include a defibrillator training component. Furthermore, the HSE has encouraged increased training and awareness around defibrillators. This is mostly so that they can be used with confidence in case of an emergency.
Ultimately, sudden cardiac arrest can occur anywhere, anytime – and to people across all age groups. The presence of these machines has the potential to alter the outcome and increase the chances of survival. This means employers should give real consideration to the life-saving role they could play in emergencies involving staff, customers, and general public members.
How to get a defibrillator at work
Things to consider before getting a defibrillator at work
If you’ve made the decision to get a defibrillator at work, here are a few things to think about before installation:
- If you are worried about sudden cardiac arrest in children, special paediatric defibrillation pads may be required.
- Give some thought to defibrillator positioning and visibility. If you are looking to install a public access defibrillator, an external defibrillator will be desirable – in a lockable, alarmed, temperature-regulated cabinet. Ensure adequate signage indicates the position of the defibrillator cabinet – and LED lights are also being used as a visibility tool.
- While training isn’t necessary, concentrating on awareness is important. If you choose to forego training, engage with your staff around what defibrillators are, where to find them in the workplace, and how to use them. Additionally, CPR is an important life-saving skill during a sudden cardiac arrest.
- The value of defibrillators is undermined if bystanders and emergency personnel do not know where to find them or if they are not operational. Take the time to register your defibrillator with national networks like The Circuit and look into smart defibrillator monitoring and security solutions.
Get in touch with your local Ambulance Service
If you’re looking to purchase a defibrillator for your workplace or for public access, get in touch with your local ambulance service for advice. They are on-hand to provide more information – and different trusts have different recommendations when it comes to the type of cabinet, lock, etc. Anyone can buy a defibrillator – and they are readily available online through leading health organisations such as St John’s Ambulance and the British Health Foundation.
Apply for a public access defibrillator
If you would like to get a public access defibrillator in your community, you can make an application online for funding through the British Health Foundation. The first step is to determine your eligibility. This includes the following factors:
- The location of the defibrillator needs to be external in an unlocked and uncoded cabinet with 24/7 access to the public.
- There needs to be a power source for temperature regulation.
- There needs to be an established need for the defibrillator.
- There needs to be a commitment to community training.
- There needs to be a clear need for funding.
What else to keep with a defibrillator
In any emergency, always call emergency services. This makes placing defibrillators near a telephone a good idea. However, a few other items to include near defibrillator cabinets include:
- A towel or tissues to ensure the victim’s skin (and, occasionally) surroundings are completely dry.
- A razor, as thick chest hair can interfere with the defibrillation process.
- Scissors to quickly cut away clothing.
- Tools for CPR.
Smart defibrillator monitoring and security for available, operational defibrillators
Defibrillators are enormously powerful machines. However, the performance of their function relies entirely on bystanders and rescuers being able to, firstly, locate the closest device. Equally important is the requirement that the battery, pads, and AED machine are in working order. Traditionally, these factors are left to chance. However, the smart defibrillator monitoring and security solutions from Smarter Technologies Group are giving increased, intelligent control over these factors.
These smart IoT solutions provide real-time data insights on the precise GPS location and status of defibrillators. This information is remotely accessible – with information conveyed to a remote dashboard through the Orion Data Network. This means operators can instantly determine the availability and operational ability of AEDs – saving critical time in an emergency.
These smart solutions are also invaluable in informing factors around ongoing care of defibrillators. This is an investment in keeping them operational and in peak working order. Where defibrillators are stored outdoors, extra challenges of extreme temperatures and dust have an impact on AED machines. Smart technologies provide alerts on undesirable temperature conditions within cabinets – alerting owners and guardians to temperature regulation malfunctions and other issues.
They also provide real-time notifications on changing factors. The cabinet monitoring feature sends alerts and takes a picture to prevent tampering and aid in device tracking. It also informs on the long-term availability and maintenance of machines to both emergency services and owners.