Do I Need a Defibrillator in my Workplace?

Written by -
Dr Dennis Ferriday
Sunday, June 14, 2020
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Let's be clear right up front, in the vast majority of workplaces there is no legal requirement for an employer to have defibrillator. Having said that it's getting much more common for employers and many other organisations such as sports clubs etc. to have a defibrillator on their premises.

So What is a Defibrillator?

A defibrillator is an electrical device that can reset the heart when it goes into a particular rhythm, called ventricular fibrillation. This rhythm stops the blood being pumped around the body. There is no doubt it can be a lifesaver, as demonstrated by the very public events of the footballer Fabrice Muamba by being resuscitated on the pitch at Tottenham football ground in 2012. Using a defibrillator can turn what could be a disastrous outcome, into a success story where the employee recovers and returns to work.

Modern defibrillators are very easy to use. The UK Resuscitation Council that provides guidance on the use of defibrillators and states that individuals should be able to use one without any training. That being said the Resuscitation Council encourages training as it helps to save time in a life at crucial moment. We have also found that employees feel uncomfortable using defibrillators without training.

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Training

Employees usually give two reasons for feeling uncomfortable using a defibrillator. Firstly, they don't want to use something they perceive as complicated and designed for professionals. The Automated External Defibrillation course demonstrates that defibrillators are easy to use and safety features on the machines prevent accidental shock. It is our experience that most employees will not use a defibrillator at work until they have been on this form of training. Secondly, they are worried that if they make a mistake in the use of the defibrillator it could lead to them being sued a later date. We always reassure our clients that it is highly unlikely that any civil litigation would be successful. However, the best way to ensure the risk of being sued remains low, is to attend training on the correct use of a defibrillator on an annual basis.

The use of a defibrillator is now included on every First Aid at Work courses that are legally required by the Health and Safety Executive. However, First Aid at Work courses are legally required to be repeated every three years and the UK Resuscitation Council recommends defibrillator training at least once a year.

Do You Really Need One?

Defibrillators are becoming much more common and many individuals think that it is a good idea for employers to have defibrillators available. If someone was to have a heart attack and go into ventricular fibrillation, every minute it takes for before a defibrillator is used decreases their chance of survival by 10%. The Government target for an ambulance to attend a life threatening casualty is that it should take no more than 7 minutes but in some situations it could be up to 15 minutes . Even if this target is met, a significant proportion of those people in the ventricular fibrillation may already be dead or at have seriously brain damaged before the paramedics arrive.

These facts have prompted some communities, to put in place large number of defibrillators around the country and to train people in the community. When anyone collapses with  ventricular fibrillation in these communities they will very rapidly, within 2 to 3 minutes, have access to a defibrillator and someone trained in its use. This has led to a dramatic increase in the survival rate of casualties in these communities, for example Seattle, Washington. If you have your heart attack, in Seattle then your chance of survival is probably around 62% (2013), whereas in UK the average survival rate in the community is less than 10% for the same year. So not only is there pressure from employees, their representatives and others in society to put defibrillators into workplaces and community settings but there is also now a developing feeling among many that it is a moral duty for employees to do this. Asda, as an example, has been rolling out defibrillators in all of their 609 UK stores and training their first aiders in their use during 2014.

Employers are sometimes put off by the perceived high cost of a defibrillator and the need for annual refresher training for their first aiders. However, increases competition has seen a decrease in prices and now a defibrillator costs no more than a a medium office printer or shredder. If an employee does collapse at work with ventricular fibrillation and the defibrillator saves their life, then that cost seems very little indeed. Who can put a price on life?

So if you're thinking of having a defibrillator in your workplace and need some advice on what to choose or any other issues then please give us a call and have a chat with one of our team who will be happy to advise.


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