Guest post: Fiona King for defibshop.co.uk – independent supplier of defibrillators and AED training.
What businesses need to know about defibrillators and CPR
According to the British Heart Foundation, each year, tens of thousands of people in the UK suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) outside of a hospital environment. By providing life-saving equipment and essential training, such as CPR and defibrillators, employers can play their part in increasing the recovery and survival rates of those affected.
Firstly, what are defibrillators and CPR?
In the event of cardiac arrest, the victim’s heart will stop pumping blood and oxygen around the body. The delicate tissues of the brain and other vital organs begin to deteriorate after a mere five minutes, after which point the likelihood of permanent damage or even death increase dramatically. The only treatment for cardiac arrest is CPR and defibrillation.
CPR: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
When correctly administered, CPR keeps blood and oxygen flowing around the body. It’s an essential skill that is taught as part of First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) training.
CPR relies on chest compressions to stimulate the circulation of blood through the heart as well as mouth-to-mouth and assisted breathing to provide oxygen to the lungs.
Though effective, CPR alone is not always sufficient to resuscitate the victim; often defibrillation and urgent medical attention is required. Defibrillation shocks the heart, causing it to stop. This allows the heart to find its normal rhythm through a sort of natural pacemaker. Defibrillation is the most effective treatment for someone suffering from an SCA.
A common misconception surrounding defibrillators is that they are dangerous unless operated by trained medical professionals or first-aiders. Defibrillation became part of FAW and EFAW training from 31st December 2016, but public access defibrillators (PADs) are automatic and extremely straightforward to use. Most are voice-guided, offering step-by-step instructions in audio or visual form.
In public places, defibrillators are always automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs). These administer shocks only when necessary – when the heart has stopped or is beating irregularly – meaning they will not operate if defibrillation is not required nor will they cause any harm to the victim. Therefore, members of the public and non-medical professionals should not be afraid to use them as they are a crucial, life-saving response to SCA.
Despite being proven to save lives, having CPR-trained first-aiders with access to defibrillators is not yet compulsory by law. This places the burden of ensuring a business is prepared in the event of SCA firmly in the hands of the employer.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that business owners take the size, age and health of their workforce into consideration, as well as the business’s proximity to emergency services, when deciding on emergency first aid training and equipment. While no law enforces the provision of these suggestions, employers may be held accountable for not providing access to the necessary first aid for their employers should an accident, injury or episode of ill-health occur on the premises.
Given the ease-of-use of defibrillators, and the access to training that is now available, healthcare professionals and union representatives are lobbying for such provisions in the workplace to become legislation.
Both defibrillators and CPR training can increase the chances of surviving an SCA from 6 per cent to 74 per cent. The British Heart Foundation reports that current survival rates for out-of-hospital SCAs is less than one in ten, leaving workers at unnecessary risk and employers susceptible to liability.
What should businesses do?
By making defibrillators available in the workplace, employers could contribute to the saving of countless lives. It’s estimated that 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home, with 20% happening in public or in the workplace.
Employers may not be breaking any laws by neglecting to provide defibrillators and trained first-aiders, but the startling facts surrounding the effectiveness of these responses to cardiac arrest beg the question, why not?
Calculating the risk
In line with risk assessment guidelines, employers can determine whether they should invest in defibrillators by calculating a numerical figure for the risk, combining the likelihood of the event occurring with the severity of consequences should it happen. Given the potentially disastrous consequences of cardiac arrest, all businesses should consider taking action.
Business owners should take into account the nearest PAD. As previously mentioned, to give the victim any chance of survival, the response time to an SCA should be within five minutes. You can locate your nearest public access defibrillator here.
Low risk environments
Most small businesses or workplaces with low footfall will achieve a low score for the likelihood of a cardiac occurring on the premises. SCA can affect people of all ages, under any circumstances; so while some factors do increase the likelihood of SCA occurring, a survey examining the UK’s most dangerous jobs found that no industry is without risk.
By equipping your office or small business with a defibrillator and ensuring that a trained first-aider is always on site, you can prepare for the worst by ensuring that anyone suffering an SCA on your premises stands a chance of survival. You can also register your defibrillator for public use which lets others in the area know of its availability in case of emergency.
Some workplaces are more likely to see an SCA take place on their premises. Companies and public spaces which experience high footfall, such as shopping centres, transport hubs and sports or entertainment venues, are at far higher risk due to the volume of traffic they receive.
Other high-risk environments include those posing hazards which may lead to cardiac arrest. Workplaces that require employees to partake in heavy manual labour, use harmful chemicals, or work in confined spaces increase the likelihood of SCA occurring.
These environments should take the provision of sufficient defibrillators as a matter of priority due to the increased likelihood of an employee suffering from an SCA.
Protect your employees
It is essential for employers to calculate the risk of cardiac arrest occurring in their business, not only for their own piece of mind, but as a moral obligation to their workforce and visitors. While we are still a long way from putting a stop to SCAs, we are closer than ever to achieving higher survival rates thanks to advances in defibrillation technology. If you would like to speak to someone to discuss what you could to do to protect your workforce, speak to defibshop today.
Find out more about First Aid training for employees at your organisation