Automated External Defibrillators

Should you have one in your workplace?

Approximately one million Americans die each year from cardiovascular disease. The American Red Cross reports that 200,000 of these deaths are due to cardiac arrest, which is the sudden and unexpected loss of heart function. According to OSHA, about 10,000 sudden cardiac arrest cases occur in the workplace each year. Waiting for the arrival of outside emergency medical services personnel significantly affects the survival rate of cardiac arrest cases.

OSHA’S Position on AEDs
Do you have an automated external defibrillator (AED) in your workplace? If you don’t have one, should you? Federal OSHA standards don’t require them. However, OSHA encourages you to install AEDs in your workplace so you will be prepared to revive a worker who may experience cardiac arrest.

States with federally approved state plans usually adopt standards that are identical to those of OSHA. However, some states have adopted different standards applicable to AEDs. They may even have different enforcement policies. Other states may require AED owners to obtain medical direction and oversight. If you have an AED in your workplace or if you’re considering one, be sure you understand any special requirements your state might have. It’s easy to check out.

What Is an AED?
An AED is a medical device designed to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to victims of ventricular fibrillation to restore the heart rhythm to normal. Ventricular fibrillation is the uncoordinated heart rhythm most often responsible for sudden cardiac arrest.

Building a Case for AEDs
Studies show that the survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are only one to five percent. Most often, cardiac arrest is due to chaotic beating of the heart (ventricular fibrillation). This abnormal beating can be restored to a normal rhy-thm if treated early with electric shock (defibrillation). Treatment of ventricular fibrillation with immediate defibrillation can increase survival to greater than 90 percent. With each minute of delay in defibrillation, nearly 10 percent fewer survive, so that at ten minutes, the survival rate is dismal. As you can see, AEDs are an important lifesaving technology and may have a role to play in treating workplace cardiac arrest.

More Information

The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association are dedicated to helping businesses establish AED programs. To learn more about AEDs, visit the Web sites below.

American Red Cross

American Heart Association

Occupational Safety & Health Administration

AED Cost and Training Needs
The cost of an AED varies by manufacturer and model. The least expensive units sell for around $1,200. Currently, an average price for a single AED unit is about $2,300 plus the expense of maintenance and instruction.

Many communities offer special CPR and AED training opportunities from various sources. Contact your local American Heart Association or American Red Cross to find out what training opportunities are available in your area. For example, the Red Cross offers half-day courses that include CPR and AED skills training, and day-long sessions that also include first aid.

Good Samaritan Provisions
All 50 states now have AED Good Samaritan provisions that help protect laypersons. You can find out more about Good Samaritan protection in your state by contacting your local or state emergency medical services (EMS) department. The sooner defibrillation is started, the more likely the victim will survive. The optimum time for defibrillation is three to five minutes after the onset of the cardiac arrest. The AED is a safe, effective, easily learned method of treating victims of cardiac arrest.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

Meet the Author
GAWDA OSHA & EPA Consultant Thomas W. Eynon is senior associate at B&R Compliance Associates LLC, based in Merritt, North Carolina. Members can reach him at (252) 745-7391 and at