Metal scaffolding holding two construction workers began to lean into power lines. This caused an electrocuting blast that threw the men to the ground. A policewoman patrolling the Brookhaven, Georgia, site had heard the powerful boom. With quick thinking, she used a portable Automated External Defibrillator to restart the heart of one of the electrocuted men, bringing him back to life. Every Brookhaven police officer has an AED and is required to undergo annual training on how to use it, the department said. What was the emergency protocol and where was the AED at the construction site? According to a recent study, an alarming number of employees do not know where their own emergency equipment is in their facility.
Improve Emergency Response
The American Heart Association reports that more than 350,000 cardiac arrests in the U.S. take place outside hospitals, and at least 10,000 of those happen in the workplace. Jobs with shift work, confined spaces, high stress, and exposure to certain chemicals and electrical hazards can increase the risks of heart disease and cardiac arrest. CPR paired with the use of an AED can greatly increase a victim’s chance of survival, according to the AHA. A 2017 poll by the organization found that most U.S. employees don’t know the location of their workplace AED. About 51% of service industry professionals in the study did not know.
An AED checks the heart's rhythm and, if needed, it can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. Even though the system is automated, workers still need to be trained on how to use it. CPR training and an AED are relatively simple interventions, according to Michael Kurz, an AHA spokesman. “It has a rather significant return on investment, both in lives saved and, frankly, on the impact on your employees. For every minute that you're in cardiac arrest, you're pulseless, your survival drops by 10 percent.”
While not a requirement, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages employers to have an AED on hand for worker emergencies. However, if the life-saving device is not maintained or seen, it will not help anyone. An AED that is easy to find also helps improve emergency response time. An ideal location for an AED is in heavy traffic areas such as break areas or main hallways, close to a confined space, or in areas where equipment is in constant use. For work outdoors, such as in construction, on an oil rig, or remote pipeline work, consider having a portable AED. Each workplace should assess its AED training program as part of periodic first-aid response. Coordinate with local emergency medical services. Other tips to keep in mind:
- Replace batteries in flashlights, alarms etc. on a regular basis
- Organize and stock items that can expire, such as sticky pads and first-aid medications
- Create and keep current a map of emergency/AED kit locations for emergency preparedness plans
- Provide training as life-saving procedures update or change
- Include AED discussions in safety meetings
- Use signs, floor markings, and bold labels to increase visibility of AED and emergency kit areas
"It's unfortunate that 1 in 3 businesses thinks to put an AED in place only after an incident occurs," Kurz said. "We would like businesses to think proactively, like they do about their business, about their employees' health."
Pump Up Emergency Plans
Each February marks American Heart Month as an observance to focus on heart health, and June 1-7 each year is National CPR and AED Awareness Week. These events spotlight how simple CPR techniques and using an AED saves lives. Implement these focuses as part of workplace safety programs. The American Red Cross can help training on how to use an AED, as well. The organization’s tools include free AED demonstrations, employee training, access to on-site assistance, and more.
Management can help employees become comfortable and familiar with safety policies and procedures using visual communication solutions and tools that garner attention. Use AED signs to mark station areas to limit confusion during an emergency situation. Enhance emergency stations to make them noticeable with premade floor marking bundles. Create industry-specific signage and other wayfinding materials quickly and simply using solutions such as premium high-performance vinyl, reflective tapes, and more.