defibrillatorAs a health and safety officer it is your job to ensure that a culture of safety is present at your workplace.

That means ensuring regulations are adhered to and procedures reviewed when necessary, safety inspections and equipment inspections are carried out, and other duties that work towards keeping employees and visitors safe are completed.

Recently, talk regarding Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) has amplified; they’re now a mainstream topic of conversation. If you’ve not already bought one for your workplace, there’s a chance that you’ve spoken about them, or Googled them to see what they are and if you need one or not.

If that sounds like you, here are the main things to need to know.

Defibrillators administer electric shocks to the heart during sudden cardiac arrest

A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. The most common cause is an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF), when the heart resorts to a quivering motion rather than pumping.

When this happens, defibrillators are the only effective treatment. The high energy electric shock administered to the heart through the chest is what’s referred to as defibrillation, and it’s a vital lifesaving step towards saving someone’s life when it’s most at risk.

They save lives (and the statistics back that up)

SCAs are common in people of all ages:

  • There are around 30,000 out of hospital sudden cardiac arrests each year in the UK.
  • 12 people under the age of 35 die each week because of SCA.

So, as you can see, people of all ages can fall victim to them. In workplaces, where people of all ages work together, there is a always a chance that someone may be of risk of SCA .

With SCAs being responsible for taking so many lives, when you consider how good defibrillators are at reducing the figure (outlined below), it’s clear why more businesses than ever are installing them on their premises.

  • Every minute without CPR and defibrillation after SCAs reduces survival rate by 7 to 10 per cent.
  • If a defibrillator is used alongside effective CPR within 3-5 minutes of cardiac arrest, survival rates rise from 6 per cent to 74 per cent.

When you consider that the average response time for the emergency services in an urban area is 8 to 11 minutes, having the ability to quickly treat a staff member is reason alone for all health and safety officers to at least enquire about their installation.

However, British law does not require all workplaces to have a defibrillator, despite the clear lifesaving benefits of quick defibrillation in the aftermath of sudden cardiac arrest.

Not every workplace needs one (although they should get an assessment)

Because of their life-saving capabilities, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Institute of Occupational Health Safety and Health), the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council UK do recommend that they are available wherever possible so that they can save lives.

But therein lies the grey area – businesses aren’t required to install them, although there are certain times when they are required, such as the following.

  • Where heavy manufacturing machinery is used.
  • Where employees are working physically.
  • Where large numbers of employees or the general public are present.

For most companies, it’s down to them whether to install one or not

Not every British business is involved in manufacturing, those days are long gone. Now, we’re much more likely to be sat in offices and tied down to our desks, which is when employer discretion comes into play as to whether they want to purchase a defibrillator or not for their premises.

Legislation hasn’t forced anything just yet, but it’s suggested that all health and safety officers arrange for an assessment to see if their place of work would be better off with this proven life-saving piece of equipment installed.

Consider this – you’re far more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest than from a fire, now look around your workplace. It’s likely that you’ll see fire extinguishers rather than defibrillators, it’s clear the law and businesses should catch up.

It’s not as clear cut as that though – due to the cost of purchasing a defibrillator, companies concerned with cost saving,may see it as a burden to have one at all.

But when you consider they save lives, it’s completely worth making the effort.

Andrew Williams writes for defibshop.