Sudden cardiac arrest in the workplace - what would you do?
Imagine a Monday morning like any other… You walk into the office and make yourself a cup of coffee while catching up with your team about the weekend. All of a sudden, you hear the unexpected sound of a cup smashing and see one of your employees fall to the ground – unconscious, not breathing, with no pulse.
What would you do?
If the answer is “I don’t know,” the tragic reality is that without immediate CPR and a shock from a defibrillator (‘AED’ or ‘defib’), your employee – could likely die within minutes.
St John Ambulance Queensland CEO, Alex Hutton says “As an employer, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your employees, and it is important to understand the number one risk facing Australia today – sudden cardiac arrest.”
What is a sudden cardiac arrest? Isn’t it the same as a heart attack?
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the largest cause of death in Australia and is far more lethal and unpredictable than a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart stops and thus causes a section of the heart muscle to begin to die; whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating. In other words, the heart attack victim is awake, and the heart is beating. In contrast, the sudden cardiac arrest victim may be unconscious, and the heart is not beating effectively.
Every minute without CPR and Automatic External Defibrillation (AED) reduces the victim’s survival rate by 7 to 10 per cent.1
Why is it then that so many workplaces don’t have a defibrillator?
While every office is required to have a fire extinguisher, it’s not compulsory for employers to have a defibrillator in the workplace. A shocking fact indeed when you consider how many Australians died last year due to sudden cardiac arrest (33,000), compared to fire emergencies (56).
Employers want their staff to feel safe at work, and it’s well documented that safe and healthy workplaces boost staff morale, lower levels of absenteeism, reduce job stress and encourage higher organisational commitment. But when it comes to investing in First Aid equipment such as defibrillators, most employers will either think that:-
- ‘It will never happen to me’ mentality, a typical response when the majority of staff are young, fit and healthy; or
- ‘I’ll get around to buying one eventually’ thinking, a typical response for most workplaces with older staff, or ‘low risk’ workplaces
When it comes to SCA, there’s no such thing as a ‘low risk’ workplace. Regardless of a person’s age, occupation or health status, cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
How do I get prepared?
Understand your duty of care.
By law, employers must provide a safe working environment so far as is reasonably practicable – this includes having an adequate number of trained first aiders, equipment, procedures and facilities needed to create and uphold a safe workplace for all employees at all times. Failure to provide adequate first aid facilities exposes businesses to financial liability and reputational damage. If you’re unsure of your obligations, head to www.worksafe.qld.gov.au to understand and make sure your business is meeting its duty of care requirements.
Get first aid ready
Ensure you have enough trained first aiders in the workplace at all times. It’s also important to make sure you’ve got an adequate number of readily available, fully stocked First Aid kits.
Invest in having a defibrillator on-site
While a defibrillator is not compulsory in the workplace, it is a vital piece of emergency First Aid equipment and the only definitive First Aid treatment for sudden cardiac arrest.
In the event of cardiac arrest, the correct response follows the ‘DRSABCD’ (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation) model with CPR administered before a shock from a defibrillator. While using a defibrillator is simple (the user follows audio instructions), and anyone can use one in an emergency, having the knowledge and confidence to perform CPR and administer a defibrillator shock correctly is crucial to ensure the best outcome for the victim.
While you can’t control when and where sudden cardiac arrest strikes, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your employees’ lives are not at risk in the event of a workplace emergency.
Don’t be one of those businesses that wishes it was prepared earlier.
About St John Ambulance
St John is a 130-year-old self-funded charitable organisation with one dedicated purpose – to save lives.
St John provides quality first aid products, services and training to the community.
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http://www.takeheartaustralia.com.au/, accessed August 2017.
http://www.heartsafeaustralia.com.au/Heart-Safe-Environment, accessed August 2017.
http://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/, accessed August 2017
1. http//www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/sudden-cardiac-death/, accessed August 2017.