Defibrillators in the Workplace – Are They Necessary and How to Get One Free

Written by | 10 Apr 2018

It’s true that more and more businesses are recognising the importance of Defibrillators in the workplace.  Imagining a colleague collapsed on the floor, not breathing, the seconds counting down while their brain is starved of oxygen and being unable to help is more than most can bear. The phone call to their next of kin is something none of us ever want to be faced with. Simply knowing a Defibrillator is on site at the workplace is a comforting thought against the risk of such a disaster. You can learn more about how a Defibrillator improves the chances of survival by up to 70% here.

With an estimated 19,000 Automated External Defibrillators located in Victoria, and more than 60,000 businesses in the state employing more than 5 people (2015), the need for more workplaces to be equipped to handle a crisis like a cardiac arrest is clear.

Unfortunately there is no way to predict whether a sudden cardiac arrest will happen in your workplace, as they can strike equally the young and old, the fit and the unwell. The word ‘sudden’ is an extremely accurate depiction of cardiac arrest – it happens very quickly and with little warning the casualty is gasping for breath and rapidly becomes unconscious.

But how do you know if your workplace should consider installing a Defibrillator? While the Australian Resuscitation Council states having a Defibrillator is good practice, there are no current regulations or guidelines around which businesses or industries should be required to have a Defibrillator. It is up to each business to assess their needs and make the decision. To help you, we’ve prepared a guide.

How to Assess If You Should Have a Defibrillator in Your Workplace?

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. Thankfully these smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are probably responsible for many thousands of lives saved each year. Imagine if the same could be said of Defibrillators?

International resuscitation guidelines advise the presence of Defibrillators when:

  • There is a reasonable probability of cardiac arrest, requiring the use of an AED, at least once in two years. As mentioned above, this is a particularly difficult risk to predict.
  • Ambulance call out time is not within 5 minutes of making an emergency phone call
  • The time from when a casualty collapses until the on-site AED can be brought into use is less than 5 minutes.

We have prepared a guide to assist you on whether to install a Defibrillator in your workplace:

Guide on Defibrillators in the Workplace

It is clear we recommend all workplaces install a Defibrillator, as you cannot easily predict when and where someone will suffer a sudden cardiac arrest. However in any of the above categories, if your workplace falls into the ‘Defibrillator Strongly Recommended’ column, you should most definitely consider a Defibrillator. Of course the more of these answers you select, the stronger the case for a Defibrillator.

Can You Be Held Liable for a Defibrillator?

Those using a Defibrillator have absolutely no liability. 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 Automated External Defibrillator 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’ is applicable. The act acknowledges that the First Aid responder did everything within their power to revive the casualty and the loss of life is at no fault of their own.

Some Important Things to Know About Owning Defibrillators in The Workplace

There are a few important things to know about AED ownership that will make having a Defibrillator in the workplace more effective at saving lives:

Location: select an accessible and visible location and install clear signage. Do not place the unit in a locked cupboard in a room away from common areas.

Set up: ensure it is properly set up. When you receive your Defibrillator, it will not be immediately activated and ready to use. Follow the steps received with your Defibrillator, such as pulling a tab and pressing a button. Not doing so will mean you lose precious seconds in an emergency and also that your Defibrillator does not perform its regular self-tests. More on how to set up a Philips Defibrillator is here.

Training: ensure as many people as possible in the workplace are present for a demonstration or even watch a video on how to use the Defibrillator. Although training is not required to use an AED, it makes people much more comfortable to know how simple the process really is and makes them more likely to step in during an emergency.

When Should You Not Have A Defibrillator In Your Workplace?

A few signs that you are not ready to own a Defibrillator in your workplace:

  • If no staff have completed a first aid course and you do not have a designated workplace first aider
  • If you are not willing to perform routine, simple checks on the Defib
  • If you are not willing to purchase replacement pads and batteries every few years, as required

If you have not covered these points you are probably not serious about owning a Defibrillator and it may even deliver a false sense of security if there is a Defibrillator in place that is not in working order, for example with expired pads.

How to Get A Defibrillator for Free

Thankfully there have been many opportunities for organisations such as sporting clubs and community groups to own a Defibrillator through various government grants, fundraising by groups such as Rotary and programs through us at St John Ambulance. However there have been no such arrangements for businesses, until now.

At St John Ambulance Victoria we’ve decided it’s time for businesses to get the opportunity to own a Defibrillator, so we’re giving away 5 Defibrillators to the most deserving businesses we can find in Victoria. If you would like to own a Defibrillator in your business, please apply here: Entries close on 20 April.

On offer is a Philips HeartStart HS1 Defibrillator, the most commonly available and one of the easiest to use Defibs in the world. As soon as the user pulls the very easy to identify ‘Pull’ tab, the Defibrillator calmly and clearly instructs them on exactly what to do, step by step until each action is complete. This saves time and reduces panic in what can be an extremely distressing situation.

Why not simply apply today and be in the running, its quick and easy