Survey shows most American workers can't address cardiac emergencies

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The majority of working Americans wouldn’t know what to do in the event a coworker began having a heart attack in the office, according to two recent American Heart Association surveys.

With about 10,000 cardiac arrests occurring in the workplace every year, encouraging education on the matter so that employees can address cardiac emergencies could save lives. Most survey respondents said they don’t have access to CPR and first aid training, and half of them couldn’t locate an automated external defibrillator (AED) at work.

The data includes responses from more than 3,000 workers in various fields. They were surveyed between February and April 2017. Of the 3,000 people surveyed, 1,000 of them work in industries regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

About 55 percent of all respondents said they could not receive first aid or CPR+AED training from their employer, and that even if they could, employers only often offered one or the other.

"The data suggests these untrained employees may be relying on their untrained peers in the event of an emergency, leaving employees with a false sense of security that someone in the workplace will be qualified and able to respond, when that is clearly not the case," said Michael Kurz, MD, co-chair of the AHA's Systems of Care Subcommittee and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

In a separate survey, conducted by the AHA and the EHS Daily Advisor, 33 percent of safety managers said lives have been saved at home and at the workplace as result of first aid, CPR and AED training provider at work. About 75 percent said injuries or medical conditions have been addressed in the workplace because of training.

"First Aid, CPR and AED training need to become part of a larger culture of safety within workplaces," Kurz said. "We are certainly seeing higher public interest in this training, and our campaign calls upon decision makers in workplaces and popular public spaces such as arenas, fitness centers, hotels, and churches to place AEDs in the same locations as a fire extinguisher."

And offering first aid and CPR training would be well-received, according to the survey, which found that 90 percent of employees would take training if their employers offered it.

"We are disheartened that lifesaving First Aid and CPR+AED training is often only offered after a serious incident that demonstrated need," said Peter Fromm, MPH, RN, co-chair of the AHA Emergency Cardiac Care Subcommittee on Systems of Care and administrator at the South Nassau Communities Hospital Center for Cardiovascular Health. "All businesses should be committed to proactively fostering a safe workplace environment, one that empowers people to take on a small social responsibility that can have a large community impact."