Chances are, if you’ve been to your local community pool, health club, fire hall, church, school—pretty much anywhere you can find a gathering of the general public—you’ve seen them; the neat white boxes emblazoned with a crimson heart logo and the letters, A.E.D. The proliferation of Automatic External Defibrillators is a good thing, and a sign of increased awareness that decreasing response times and saving lives in the event of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a community affair.
But what about your business? Is it wise to take on the responsibility—and the potential risk—of placing and maintaining an AED for your employees and customers, should the dread need for the device ever arise? The short answer is an unqualified “Yes.” Let’s take a look at the life-saving technology that is the AED and what you should consider as a business owner before you make the decision to place one at your establishment.
First, the basics. What is an AED, and when is it used? According to American Heart Association (AHA), “[an] automated external defibrillator is a computerized medical device. An AED can check a person’s heart rhythm. It can recognize a rhythm that requires a shock. And it can advise the rescuer when a shock is needed. The AED uses voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer the steps to take.”
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), of the 6,628 workplace fatalities reported to the agency in 2001-2, “A number of these victims, up to 60 percent, might have been saved if automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were immediately available.”
As you might suspect given the ease of use and high likelihood that access to AEDs can save lives, there have been some efforts to legislate the public access to, and training for, the devices. In Maryland, for example, the passage of Connor’s Law in Anne Arundel County (and its subsequent expansion in 2012), led to mandated AED placement and device training for lifeguards at public and semi-public swimming pools. Maryland is among the 19 states that require AEDs to be available in schools or at school-sponsored athletic events, and the 14 states requiring them to be placed in health clubs.
Outside of legislative requirements, businesses both large and small have seen the wisdom of providing public access to defibrillators (PAD) at their establishments. While OSHA explicitly states it “does not have standards specific to…AEDs,” the agency is equally emphatic that “[w]orkers have a right to a safe workplace,” which could set the stage for expansion of the devices as a workplace safety issue. Indeed, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation indicates that, “starting in the mid-1990s, legislatures throughout the U.S. began enacting AED-related laws, including Good Samaritan immunity laws, presumably with the intent that such laws would reduce liability risks and therefore encourage more organizations and individuals to buy, place, and use AEDs in public settings.” In other words, legislatures across the country are looking to encourage businesses to expand PAD by exempting businesses from liability under the Good Samaritan laws. “The level of legislative activity in this area continues to be robust with continuous efforts to modify existing laws or add AED placement mandates,” reports the SCA.
The AHA “…supports placing AEDs in targeted public areas such as sports arenas, gated communities, office complexes, doctor’s offices, shopping malls,” and “strongly encourages that they be part of a defibrillation program” which includes thorough training and oversight.
The good news is that in most cases, the law specifically protects a business owner who decides to place an AED and train key personnel on its proper usage. According to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University, federal law states “any person who uses or attempts to use an automated external defibrillator device on a victim of a perceived medical emergency is immune from civil liability for any harm resulting from the use or attempted use of such device.”
Additionally, a reputable vendor of AEDs and related services should carry liability coverage themselves. AED.com, a division of DXE Medical, carries its own product liability insurance and recommends that “[b]efore you buy an AED, make sure the seller carries liability coverage.”
So, bottom line: Having public access to an AED is a good move for your business, especially if you’re looking for a cost effective way to ensure your customers and workforce are adequately protected and cared for in the event of an SCA on your premises. If you’d like more information about the insurance impact of offering PAD at your business, please give us a call or drop us a line. We’re happy to help you help the people who mean the most to your business!
Have you recently put an AED in place or implemented a PAD program at your business? Tell us all about it in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!