According to the British Red Cross, only 1 out of 10 people survive an out-of-hospital coronary event.1 Chances of survival for someone in cardiac arrest decrease by 10% every minute without CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED). 2
AEDs, also known simply as defibrillators or defibs, are medical devices that assess the heart rhythm of someone experiencing a cardiac event and, if necessary, deliver a shock to return the heart to its normal rhythm. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 only requires workplaces to have AEDs if their needs assessment reveals that they should. Nonetheless, many businesses are voluntarily buying defibrillators because they recognize that these machines save lives.
Many people find these devices to be intimidating, but they are actually easy to use—especially as they talk you through how to operate them. Simply turn on the machine and listen to its instructions.
AEDs can’t save lives, though, if they aren’t operational. Employers must assign someone the task of making sure that the device is kept rescue ready. If the responsible party isn’t a first-aider, then the first-aider needs to know who it is.
The first step in maintaining the AED is being familiar with its operating manual and the machine itself. The most important step is to know that the defibrillator is rescue ready. Luckily the device does this for you by performing self-checks on a regular basis. A green light or other such indication will appear on the device if all is in order. The person responsible for the defibrillator should look at it every day to ensure it is working.
The responsible party also needs to check on a regular basis that all the items that are supposed to be stored in or with the defibrillator are there. The AED should come with two sets of pads (one spare just in case). Other accessories that workplaces should store with it include scissors to cut away clothing, a CPR face mask, a towel, or gauze to make sure the chest is dry, and gloves. Accessory packs, called “Rescue Ready Kits,” can be purchased online.
Of utmost importance is making sure that the pads aren’t out of date. To check the expiry date, you’ll have to open the AED case. This may cause the device to switch on automatically and start giving instructions. Just proceed with checking the pads, as the instructions will stop and the machine will shut down when the case is closed. Just be sure not to open the case too frequently, as this will decrease the battery life. Keeping a record of when the pads were checked and when they are set to expire can save you from unnecessarily opening the AED.
Stewart First Aid Training can prepare your employees for working with defibrillators. Courses that instruct on AEDs are HSE First Aid at Work and HSE Emergency First Aid at Work, and we also offer a half day dedicated course entitled Automated External Defibrillator (AED) with CPR. For more information and to book courses, click here.