Experts say that when a person goes into cardiac arrest, normal heart function may be restored up to 60 percent of the time if the victim is treated promptly with an automated external defibrillator (AED). AEDs are computerized electronic devices that can check a person's heart rhythm, recognize a rhythm that requires a shock, and advise emergency responders when a shock is needed. AEDs use voice prompts, lights, and text messages to instruct rescuers.
Why are AEDs becoming popular in the workplace? OSHA says that approximately 890 deaths from coronary heart disease occur outside of the hospital or emergency room every day. Most of these deaths are due to the sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). And no small number of SCA-related fatalities occur in the workplace. That's why more and more workplaces are purchasing AEDs to have another vital first-aid tool to protect their employees on-site. Although costs vary, many models are available for between $1,500 and $2,000.
How do AEDs save lives? SCA occurs when ventricular fibrillation (VF) takes place or when the heart stops beating altogether. Causes include:
(1) Heart attack
Most often cardiac arrest is due to VF, which is defined as the uncoordinated beating of the heart. Normal rhythm can be restored if treated early with electric shock. The sooner defibrillation is started, the more likely the victim will survive. Chances of survival from sudden cardiac death diminish by 7-10 percent for each minute without immediate CPR or defibrillation. Optimum time for defibrillation is 3 to 5 minutes after the onset of cardiac arrest. Since it can take longer than that for an ambulance to arrive, having an AED on-site can be a lifesaver. Of course, even with an AED on hand, an immediate call should be put in to 911 any time an employee goes into cardiac arrest on the job. Follow-up treatment at a medical facility will be required.
What about training? Employees designated to operate AEDs must be thoroughly trained in proper operation of the defibrillator. They should also be certified in CPR. After an AED delivers a shock, it often prompts the operator to continue CPR while the device continues to analyze and monitor the victim.