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Health & Well-being

Supporting Heart Health in the Workplace

February 9, 2023

February is American Heart Month. Each year, nearly 697,000 people die from heart disease in the U.S. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is on the rise in working-age adults.

The CDC Foundation and the Million Hearts® initiative offer tools and resources employers can use to raise heart health awareness and to help educate employees about controlling blood pressure, managing cholesterol and blood sugar, eating healthy, stopping smoking and more. Visit the following sites:

Defibrillators Save Lives but Require Additional Considerations

According to the CDC, most heart-related deaths are due to the sudden loss of heart function or sudden cardiac arrest. Of cardiac arrest cases occurring in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports a decreased chance of survival by 7%-10% for each minute that passes without defibrillation. Having an automated external defibrillator (AED) immediately available in the workplace can make the difference between life and death.

An AED is a device, approximately the size of a laptop, which directs the user via voice prompts to deliver an electric shock to a cardiac arrest victim after the machine detects abnormalities in the person’s heart rhythm. The current is delivered through the victim’s chest through adhesive electrode pads. The goal of using an AED is to help the heart re-establish a rhythm on its own.

While having an AED in the workplace can save lives, it’s important to understand the training, legal and insurance considerations.

Placing an AED in Your Facility

OSHA standard 1910.151(b) states the following:

In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.

AEDs are easy to use for those who are properly trained on how to do so. But only individuals with proper training should operate an AED to avoid injuring themselves and others.

AED Training Considerations

Recommendations when designing your own AED program include the following:

  • Establish clear responsibilities for each role in the program.
  • Obtain the guidance of a physician to oversee the direction and control of your program. This person will assist you in determining where to place the AED(s), ensure that proper training is given to employees and can review your program each time an AED is used on-site. The physician can also assist your facility in complying with regulatory requirements and establishing relationships with emergency medical personnel.
  • Ensure the program complies with federal and state regulations, including requiring every person who may use an AED to be properly trained in CPR and AED use.
  • Devise a written AED program for each location in which an AED is located.
  • Share information about your AED program with emergency medical personnel to ensure that proper protocol is met.
  • Integrate the AED usage program into a broader emergency response action plan.
  • Place the AED no more than five minutes from a potential area where cardiac arrest could occur.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding servicing, testing and replacement. Keep records of these duties as well.
  • Devise an AED quality assurance program, including a review of each use of the AED, training records and program evaluations.

AED Legal Considerations

Some companies are reluctant to implement an AED program out of fear of litigation. Yet, according to the American Heart Association, there are currently no known lawsuits against individuals providing CPR or AED care while acting as “good Samaritans.” This is because all 50 states have AED good Samaritan laws in place to protect regular laypersons that perform emergency acts within the scope of their training and act with good intentions. Contact your state’s emergency medical services department (generally part of your state’s health department) for more information on good Samaritan laws. It is also wise to consult your company’s legal representation before beginning a new program such as this.

AED Insurance Considerations

Purchasing the appropriate insurance coverage is also imperative when operating an AED program. In addition to the protection offered by a general liability policy, workers’ compensation may cover the heart attack itself if it qualifies as a work-related incident under the state’s requirements as well as subsequent treatment, or employee use of the AED, under a compliant AED program.

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.

Authored By

Beverlie Cote

Beverlie Cote

Risk Advisor - Casualty Loss Control

Beverlie has 20 years of experience in environmental, health and safety within automotive, food manufacturing, agriculture, education Japanese and Chinese companies and life sciences. Beverlie partners with commercial clients in strategic casualty loss control by reviewing the client’s loss history and developing actionable objectives and goals to improve their program and systems.

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