Americans Largely Unprepared for Cardiac Events at Work

More than half of workers surveyed do not have access to first aid, CPR, or AED training.

Despite more than 10,000 cardiac arrests occurring each year in the workplace, most employees in the United States are ill prepared to respond, according to 2 new surveys conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA).

The survey found that many employees are not equipped to respond to a cardiac event due to a lack of training in CPR and first aid.

Cardiac arrests occur when the heart stops beating typically from an electrical disturbance. Individuals experience a loss of consciousness and unresponsiveness.

Training in CPR and first aid has the potential to save thousands of lives. The AHA reported that in a setting outside a hospital, when CPR is immediately administered, survival can double or triple.

Results from surveys indicate that most American workers do not have access to such training, and 50% of participants were unable to locate an automated external defibrillator (AED) in their workplace, according to the AHA.

These findings have prompted the organization to develop a new campaign that advocates emergency preparedness for cardiac events, since it can save lives.

Included in the surveys were more than 3000 workers from various fields. An additional 2000 participants from corporate offices, hospitality, education, and industry/labor and 1000 safety managers working in industries regulated by the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) were also surveyed.

Approximately 55% of the respondents were unable to receive first aid or CPR+AED training, but those whose employers offered training, it was typically one or the other, according to the study.

The authors also discovered that 50% of respondents were unable to locate the AED in their workplace. In the hospitality industry, 66% of workers could not locate an AED.

“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.

In the second survey, the authors indicated that safety managers in OSHA-regulated industries reported the need for more frequent training.

One-third of the respondents said that the need for first aid, CPR, and AED training was only found to be important after an incident in the workplace, according to the survey.

The authors also found that one-third of safety managers indicated that the training at work resulted in saved lives, while 75% said injuries have been treated as a result.

Approximately 36% of these individuals said that having training more frequently than every 2 years, according to the study.

Interestingly, younger workers were less likely to participate in the training. The authors attribute the lower participation to a decreased sense of risk among the population.

“First Aid, CPR and AED training need to become part of a larger culture of safety within workplaces,” Dr 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.”

The authors also found that more than 90% of employees would participate in first aid and CPR+AED training if it was offered, and 70% believe that the training would make them better prepared for emergency medical situations, according to the study.

“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. “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.”