All Work Places required to be trained in the use of Automated External Defibrillator (AED) equipment

Did you know that from 31st December 2016, the Health and Safety Executive requires all workplace first aiders who complete First Aid at Work, Emergency First Aid, and refresher training courses to be trained on the use of Automated External Defibrillator (AED) equipment?

At the moment this doesn’t mean that all workplaces are legally obliged to have a defibrillator on site  but it is considered good practice.

According to the British Heart Foundation, over 30,000 people resuscitated by the ambulance service, suffer from cardiac arrest in Britain every year and sadly, a lack of rapid first aid intervention means that less than 1 in 10 people survive. The Resuscitation Council (UK) estimates that early defibrillation can increase survival rates by up to 70%

In the event of a cardio arrest every second counts.  For every minute that a person in cardiac arrest must wait to be defibrillated, their chance of survival decreases by approximately  10%.  If a cardiac arrest happens  and there is no defibrillator on site then it is important that good quality CPR is carried out to keep the brain oxygenated and the heart pumping until the emergency services  arrive. Interestingly Heathrow airport is reported to have a 75% survival rate.

Defibrillators are designed to be simple to use and they give clear instructions on what to do.   They are not an expensive piece of kit  – for under £1000 if may just save one of your employees or colleagues lives.

A few Questions and Answers about Cardiac Arrest

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) simply means that the heart unexpectedly and abruptly quits beating. This is usually caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).

Is SCA the same as a heart attack?

No. A heart attack is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, resulting in the death of the heart muscle. Heart attack victims usually (but not always) experience chest pain and usually remain conscious. Heart attacks are serious and sometimes will lead to SCA. However, SCA may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. SCA results in death if not treated immediately.

Who is at risk for SCA?

While the average age of SCA victims is about 65, SCA is unpredictable and can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.

What is VF?

VF is an abnormal heart rhythm often seen in SCA. This rhythm is caused by abnormal and very fast electrical activity in the heart. VF is chaotic and unorganized; the heart quivers and cannot effectively pump blood. VF is short lived and will deteriorate to asystole (a flat line) if not treated promptly.

How is VF treated?

The only effective treatment for VF is an electrical shock called defibrillation. Defibrillation is an electrical current applied to the chest. The electrical current passes through the heart with the goal of stopping the VF and providing an opportunity for the heart’s normal electrical system to take control. This current helps the heart reorganize the electrical activity so it can pump blood again. An automated external defibrillator (AED) can defibrillate the heart.

What is an AED?

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a device that analyses and looks for shockable heart rhythms, advises the rescuer of the need for defibrillation, and delivers a shock if needed.

Will I hurt the victim by using an AED?

When used on people who are unresponsive and not breathing, the AED is extremely safe. The AED makes shock delivery decisions based upon the victim’s heart rhythm, and will only defibrillate a shockable rhythm.

What if I forget the steps for using an AED?

The steps for shocking an SCA victim are simple and straightforward. Most AED’s will provide visual and audio prompts to guide you through the entire resuscitation process. The most difficult part is recognizing the need for defibrillation.

Should I perform CPR first or apply electrode pads from the AED?

Start CPR immediately. Once the AED is present, apply the electrode pads to the victim’s bare chest and follow the AED’s voice prompts and messages. It will tell you when to resume CPR.

If defibrillation is so important, why should I do CPR?

CPR provides some circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the victim’s heart and brain. This circulation delays both brain death and the death of heart muscle. CPR also makes the heart more likely to respond to defibrillation.

Can I be sued using an AED?

To date there has never been a case where someone was held liable for using an AED.

Can I accidentally shock another rescuer or myself?

AEDs are extremely safe when used properly. The electric shock is programmed to go from one electrode pad to another through the victim’s chest. Basic precautions, such as verbally warning others to stand clear and visually checking the area before and during the shock, can ensure the safety of rescuers.

What if the victim has a medication patch on or EKG electrodes on the chest where I want to place the electrode pads?

Never place AED electrode pads directly on top of medication patches, such as nitro-glycerine, or EKG patches. Patches should always be removed and the skin wiped dry before placing electrode pads on the skin.

Do I need to remove the electrode pads before performing CPR?

No. The electrode pads remain on throughout the resuscitation and until the victim is transferred to advanced care providers such as the paramedics. If the electrode pads are in their correct locations on the victim’s chest, they will not interfere with proper hand placement or compressions.

Should I use the AED if the victim has a pacemaker or is pregnant?

Yes, never withhold AED use from a person in SCA.

Can I defibrillate on a wet surface?

Yes, as long as the usual safety rules are observed. Be sure the victim’s chest is wiped dry. Keep the electrode pads away from a damp or conductive surface.

Can I defibrillate on or near a metal surface?

Yes, as long as the usual safety rules are observed. Keep the electrode pads away from contact with the conductive surface. Be sure not to allow anyone to touch the victim when a shock is delivered.

How much of the victim’s clothing should be removed to carry out defibrillation?

The chest should be exposed to allow placement of the disposable electrode pads. A woman’s bra should be removed. Clothes may need to be cut off.

Why is it so important to be sure that the electrode pads are firmly adhered to a clean, dry chest?

Successful defibrillation requires electricity to flow from one electrode pad to the other through the chest. If the electrode pads are not firmly adhered and there is sweat or another conductive material between the electrode pads, the electricity will be more likely to flow across the chest rather than through it. This will result in ineffective defibrillation and an increased chance of sparks and fire.

Is it okay to place the electrode pads directly on a hairy chest?

Electrode pads must come in direct contact with the skin. If the chest hair is so excessive as to prevent good adhesion of the electrode pad, the hair must be removed quickly.

What if I have a child victim?

You should use paediatric electrode pads, which carry a lower charge to the child in SCA.

After I have successfully defibrillated the victim, do I keep the electrode pads on?

Yes, even after a victim has been successfully defibrillated, he/she is at risk of developing VF again. The AED will continually monitor the victim for the return of VF. If VF is suspected, the AED will automatically begin to analyse the victim after two minutes of CPR is complete. The AED should be left on until emergency personnel assume responsibility for the victim.

I used an AED on an SCA victim and the AED always prompted “No Shock Advised.” Even with CPR the victim did not survive. Why didn’t the AED shock this victim?

Although VF is the most common rhythm in cardiac arrest, it is not the only one. The AED will only shock VF or VT (ventricular tachycardia), which is a very weak but fast heart rhythm. There are other heart rhythms associated with SCA that are not treated with defibrillation shocks. A “No Shock Advised” message doesn’t mean the victim’s heart rhythm is back to normal.

I shocked a woman in SCA within minutes after she collapsed. I heard later that she did not survive. Did I do something wrong?

Unfortunately, because of other underlying medical or heart problems, a victim of SCA who is in VF may not survive even if defibrillation is done promptly and correctly.

What if I don’t perform all the steps of CPR and defibrillation perfectly?

Treating SCA is a high stress situation. Even experienced health care providers do not do everything perfectly. During SCA, performing CPR and using an AED can only help the victim.

What if I’m not certain whether or not I need to use an AED?

Remember this rule: Only use an AED on someone you would do CPR on—unresponsive and not breathing.

Taken from

For more information about the Defibrillators that Safe and Sound provide go to:

All Safe and Sound first aid courses include training on the use of AED equipment.

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