Do I need an AED / defibrillator in my workplace?

One question we’re often asked at Life Saving Training is “do I need an AED / defibrillator in my workplace?”. This includes considering the premises of an organisation you may be involved with voluntarily. It’s a great question to ask to ensure you’re assessing risks and taking the appropriate precautions.

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator. Also known as a ‘heart restarter’, an AED is a portable electronic device that can detect a shockable rhythm in a heart in cardiac arrest and deliver a shock to allow the heart to start beating normally again.

Although CPR delays tissue death, it is unlikely to restart the heart. To survive, a person needs good quality CPR and early access to an AED. 

A non breathing person’s chance of survival decreases by around 10% for every minute that defibrillation is delayed – even whilst receiving good quality CPR. So, if you don’t have a defibrillator on your premises – how long is it going to take to get one onto the casualty?

So, do I need an AED / defibrillator in my workplace or not?

First Aid Needs Assessment

By law, all employers need to complete a First Aid Needs Assessment. This helps employers understand how many First Aiders they need, the level they need to be trained to, how many first aid kits are required, what should be in them etc.

Your First Aid Needs Assessment will also help you understand whether you should have an AED too.

Do I need an AED in my workplace?

To assess whether you need to supply an AED, it’s important to consider who uses your facility, and in what circumstances. This allows you to consider how likely it is that someone will have a cardiac arrest. 

It’s a legal requirement for organisations to reduce foreseeable risk. It makes sense to consider the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in this assessment and consider investing in an AED.

As with any risk assessment, we look at:

  1. The likelihood of cardiac arrest occurring.
  2. The consequences or severity of cardiac arrest occurring. 

1. The Likelihood of Cardiac Arrest Occurring

ProbabilityScoreProbability of risk being realisedDescription
Almost certain576 - 100%Risk has a high likelihood of occurring despite precautions
Likely451 - 75%Risk has a high likelihood of occurring
Moderate326 - 50%Risk has a moderate likelihood of occurring
Unlikely211 - 25%Risk is considered unlikely to occur
Rare10 - 10%Risk will occur in rare circumstances

The likelihood of cardiac arrest occurring in public areas or workplaces is probably quite low. Looking at the table above, in a small office, garage or shop, we might reasonably give the likelihood of cardiac arrest occurring a score of 1 or 2. Higher risk sites such as a sports centre, a transport hub or shopping centre with a high footfall could justify a score of 3 or 4.

2. The Consequences (Severity) of Cardiac Arrest Occurring

In a risk assessment, a score of 1 – 5 is allocated based on the consequences of the event occurring.

1NegligibleMinimal or no effects if event occurs
2MinorConsequences very minor, no lasting effects
3ModerateImportant consequences
4MajorSignificant impact / injury on anyone affected
5ExtremeDeath or serious injury

Because cardiac arrest is always fatal (unless treated), the score here will always be 5.

Risk Rating Score

Risk = Severity (5) X Likelihood

So, to get your risk rating, multiply the two scores you have together and check against the table below.

Rating ScoreAction
1 - 4Broadly acceptable - no action required
5 - 9Moderate Risk - reduce risks if reasonably practical 
10 - 15High Risk - priority action to be undertaken
16 - 25Unacceptable - action must be taken immediately

Using the risk assessment described above, most sites will score either a 5 or 10, suggesting a reasonable possibility of cardiac arrest occurring in most locations. There is very little we can do to reduce this risk of people having a cardiac arrest. Therefore, the only practical action is to ensure that there is easy access to a defibrillator, that all staff know where it is and that they are confident to use it alongside high quality CPR.

The best chance of successful resuscitation is achieved when defibrillation and other first aid measures are carried out with minimum delay. Ideally, this will be within the first 3 minutes where 75% survival rates have been reported. This timeframe is unlikely for ambulance services, which aim to reach the majority of urgent calls within 8 minutes of the emergency call being made. Remember, the chance of resuscitation falls by 10% for every minute that defibrillation is delayed.

Wondering what the differences are between AEDs? Wondering which AED to get?

Complete Buyer’s Guide to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

If you need advice, feel free to get in touch. We’re not going to try to sell you anything – we just like to help!

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