The shockingly simple ways to save lives
- Date: Thursday 21st November 2019
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A defibrillator can provide a lifeline for someone in cardiac arrest when every second counts, so why don’t more organisations invest in this equipment as part of their first aid provision?
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become a common sight in public places over the past 20 years, but many businesses have been slow to introduce them into the workplace. Although there is no legal requirement to provide a defibrillator for the health and safety of employees or visitors to the premises, an AED is a relatively small investment that could one day save a life.
Sudden cardiac arrest – the facts
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in western Europe, and in the UK there are an estimated 60,000 cases every year. In England, the ambulance service attempts resuscitation in around 30,000 of these, but less than one person in ten survives if the condition occurs out of hospital.
The good news is that survival rates improve dramatically with early intervention and the European Resuscitation Council states that CPR can double or quadruple a person’s chance of survival if it is started immediately.
But that’s only half the story.
Most SCAs occur because of a problem developing in the heart that results in an abnormality in its electrical rhythm. Technically referred to as ventricular fibrillation, the electrical impulses that normally control the heart become chaotic and uncoordinated. This could be caused by many issues, including muscle damage, as in a heart attack, or accidental electrocution. The heart stops beating normally and blood stops circulating around the body. It can happen to people of any age, at any time.
To return the heart to its normal rhythm, the patient requires defibrillation – an electric shock that will stun the heart muscle and restore the pumping function. Using a defibrillator within three minutes of a cardiac arrest can improve a person's chance of survival by as much as 70%. However, survival rates fall by 10% for every minute the patient goes without defibrillation.
Armed with the knowledge that it’s a race against time, it’s clear that having employees trained to deliver CPR and with ready access to an AED can save lives.
Does my business need an AED?
In an ideal world, everyone would live, study and work within minutes of defibrillator treatment. In reality, an AED represents a financial investment in the equipment, its upkeep and training on its use. Therefore, businesses want to be confident that the purchase is warranted.
Enter the risk assessment
If your organisation has a large number of employees or customers visiting a site each day, this will increase the risk of an SCA. UK supermarket chain Morrisons has 11 million customers walking through its doors every week and has installed defibrillators in 494 stores. Quick-thinking staff have already saved the lives of 21 people by using the devices.
Also consider whether there is a higher risk of SCA at your place of business – for example, gyms or health clubs have an elevated risk of cardiac arrest. British car retailer Pendragon has bought more than 200 defibrillators for its dealerships and centres after being advised by manufacturers that an AED should be provided for the safe servicing of electrical vehicles.
When time is of the essence, the case for having a defibrillator on site can be critical. For rural businesses, ambulance response times can be much longer, which shortens the survival chances of a stricken employee or customer.
Most organisations will know where their nearest defibrillator is as part of their first aid strategy, but it should be well researched to ensure it is indeed a viable solution. For instance, is the AED available on days and times when your staff and customers are on site? Also consider how long it would take to retrieve the AED on foot. It may only be a five-minute walk away, but the round journey will be double that, by which time the chances of patient survival could have diminished significantly. If it’s not accessible, businesses should consider investing in their own equipment.
Train and maintain to save lives
Modern AEDs provide audible instructions and some even give visual prompts to help the user. The AED analyses the heart’s electrical activity and will charge itself to deliver a shock if required, making it particularly simple to operate.
Although anyone can use an AED without formal training, best outcomes are achieved when rescuers receive training in first aid to recognise the symptoms of SCA and perform CPR since these elements are essential in incidences of cardiac arrest. CPR maintains oxygen supply to the brain and other organs to make it more likely that the heart can be re-started by defibrillation. Training doesn’t take long, and it is important that staff are familiar with what to do because every minute wasted can have a significant impact.
As well as ensuring enough staff are trained to use the AED, businesses should also ensure the device is always visible, available and ready to use. This is normally very simple and involves little more than replacing the battery when required, keeping pads in stock and replacing them after use.
Please contact our Customer Service team for further information regarding our CPR and Defibrillator training.
Source: IOSH Magazine