4 minutes reading time
Could deployment of an Automated External Defibrillator prevent sudden cardiac death and save your utility from a perfect legal storm?
A few years ago, a popular movie retold the story of a lone fishing boat caught in the storm of the century. In this true story, three storm fronts came together to produce a deadly trap that the ship could not escape. In the utility industry today, several issues are building up simultaneously as well, creating the potential for a perfect storm of legal damage for those caught unaware.
Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD), the overall leading cause of death in the U.S., is also one of the leading causes of death in the workplace. Add to that the reality that electrocution is a cause of SCD in even a healthy, non-symptomatic adult and you have the beginning of what lawyers like to call a "foreseeable and thoroughly avoidable outcome" for anyone who works on or in close proximity to power lines.
For those and other good reasons, the deployment of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) by utilities is becoming more commonplace. Believe it or not, though, the risk of worker death from SCD is not the main danger to a utility company that chooses not to provide this important safety device. The legal winds changed in 2000 when Congress passed the Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act (or Good Samaritan Law) essentially removing all liability from using an AED in a rescue or acquiring them as a business.
In other words, as long as you properly deploy an AED you are protected from legal action. To further legitimize the use of AEDs as standard safety equipment, OSHA came out with a strongly worded statement emphasizing the need for companies to acquire AEDs and provide the training needed to save lives in the workplace. A very strong case can be made that now the liability of not purchasing and deploying an AED in an environment that calls for it is much greater than doing nothing at all.
The final front in this growing storm comes from the requirement to teach utility workers CPR and keep their accreditation current. As all CPR training comes with AED instruction, there is no need to overstate the danger and liability of implementing training without the proper equipment in the field.
If you are planning to deploy AEDs in vehicles and buildings (or already have them), there are a few things to keep in mind:
• Manage your program to the requirements of the Good Samaritan Act or find someone to do it for you. This is the most important item and where organizations can definitely run into issues after the initial purchase. Good Sam requires a prescription, medical oversight including the establishment of protocols, training of first responders, registration with local EMS and a complete and competent tracking of the devices and all elements of the deployment. This can be done several different ways but the easiest is to take advantage of a service that will do it for you and stand behind the entire process.
• Acquire the right device. First, make sure your device self-tests all of the critical components each day and alerts you if there is a problem. Second, make sure the AED is easy to use. AEDs can have multiple buttons, awkward pads and icons that can confuse a lay rescuer in a stressful situation. Last but not least, ensure that the technology can be changed based on the latest data. Every few years, a study comes out that directs everyone on the best protocols and the American Heart Association (AHA) regularly issues changes that make AEDs more effective. Don't be left with a unit that does not have the option to change with the times.
• Remember where you are placing the AED. A home AED is different than a commercial unit and there are additional considerations for devices that are going to be placed in vehicles. For example, the effect of temperature changes means it is necessary to make sure the AED tests the pads for functionality each and every day. The pads are the connection to the victim and if the water-based gel has frozen or dried out, the unit is useless as a life saving device.
• Battery and Text Display. While a comprehensive self-testing capability and ease of use for the rescuer are important considerations when choosing an AED, two other areas to consider are the battery system and text display. First, make sure the AED has a battery that will hold up and is strong enough to conduct daily testing and still be ready for a rescue. Text display is critical in a rescue, especially in a loud environment. It also relays vital information to EMS personnel when they arrive on the scene.
With proper due diligence, an AED can be deployed and serviced effectively and efficiently. Most importantly, a compliant safety program including AEDs can make a big difference in the lives of employees and keep utilities out of a perfect storm of legal troubles. ipvideo