• Norine Cruse

Defibrillators in the workplace – is it an overkill?


Did you know that death from cardiac arrest is 446 times more likely than death from a fire? Yet all Australian workplaces are required to have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers to reduce the risk of death and injury.

What about defibrillators?

Defibrillators [AED automatic external defibrillator] are cheaper and more readily available than ever, but does that mean you need one in the workplace?

It’s a matter of risk.

The Australian Resuscitation Council indicates having a defibrillator is good practice, there are no current regulations or guidelines around which businesses should be required to have a defibrillator.

Although no outright legal requirement, first aid legislation indicates that first aid arrangements must be suitable and adequate for the type of work and the nature of the work site. Taking that into account it could be assumed that workplaces such as hospitals, other medical facilities plus sports, health and fitness facilities, or a workplace where there is a significant risk of electrocution would require a defib. All of these could be assumed to have a foreseeable risk of sudden cardiac arrest situations.

What about all the other workplaces?

Essentially, it’s a matter of choice taking into account the overall risk aspects.

If there is doubt and uncertainty about the likelihood of the risk, a risk assessment can be undertaken to assess the need for a defibrillator. The risk assessment should take into account the specific circumstances in which the need for a defibrillator may arise such as population demographics of the workforce and public accessing the workplace or surrounding areas.

Why take the risk, why not just install a defibrillator?

Obviously providing a defibrillator can reduce the risk of fatality from cardiac arrest. It is a useful addition for workplaces where there are large numbers of people including members of the public.

AED’s are designed to be used by trained or untrained persons. If you do decide to install a defibrillator it’s still useful to train staff even though defibrillators may be used by untrained people.

The defib should be located in an area that is visible, accessible and not exposed to extreme temperatures. The defib should be clearly signed and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Still having trouble deciding?

Then consider how close you are to an ambulance when called. What is the likely call out time?

  • Is the ambulance likely to arrive within or less than 5 minutes?

  • If not, the AED can be activated within a 5 minute or less timeline and therefore is a viable option.

How many people do you have in close proximity within the workspace?

  • Less than 50. Then you probably don’t need a defib.

  • More than 50. Then you probably do need a defib.

Is the workplace subject to physical work, extremes of temperature or is remote from the nearest medical assistance?

  • No to all. Then you probably don’t need a defib.

  • Yes to any. Then you probably do need a defib.

Are there people with pre-existing heart conditions on site?

  • No. Then you probably don’t need a defib.

  • Yes. Then you probably do need a defib.

OK, let’s say its been decided to get a defibrillator, what do we need to know?

  • Defibrillators are designed to administer a carefully calculated shock which will not harm the casualty. Defibrillator settings cannot be altered so there is no liability on the First Aid responder if the casualty does not survive.

  • An AED will also not ‘shock’ someone if they do not need it, so it cannot cause more injury than the casualty is already in.

  • Businesses do not need to worry about a defibrillator accidentally shocking someone or delivering a higher charge than needed, as they have been designed for the exact scenarios they are sold for – public use by everyday people.

  • When a defibrillator is used in an emergency ‘The Good Samaritan Act - Vic’ and other like Acts are applicable. The act acknowledges that the first aider did everything within their power to revive the casualty and the loss of life is at no fault of their own.

Last of all, if you get a defibrillator, then maintain it! How would you feel having to use the defib only to find it has flat batteries?


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