The No. 1 health-crisis death in the workplace is by heart attack. But having an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand can improve the chances for survival of a heart attack victim by about 70 percent.
So why don’t all workplaces have one?
Reasons business owners give including cost and the misplaced fear of being sued for misuse of the device, said Tami Bender of Petaluma Health Care District’s HeartSafe Community, which provides CPR and AED education and services.
“Businesses have a fear of liability for placing public access to an AED. However, they are covered under the Good Samaritan Law and the device is designed so that it cannot accidentally shock someone,” she said.
The so-called California “Good Samaritan Law” (Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102), put in place in 2014, says that no one “who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.”
No one in the U.S. has been successfully sued by implementing CPR or the use of an AED, Bender said. “The Good Samaritan Law has always prevailed.”
There could be liability, however, if the device is not maintained by the owner. Under California law, AEDs must be registered with the county’s emergency medical service (EMS) and in compliance with a maintenance plan that requires periodic checking of the pads and batteries and reporting the check.
AED’s work by electrodes that send information about the person’s heart rhythm to a computer in the device, which figures out if an electric shock is needed. On Aug. 26, the AED device was used on a Sonoma County golfer who collapsed on the course. News reports indicated he was breathing on his own and had a pulse when emergency crews arrived.
Every device is also designed to detect the difference between a regular heartbeat and an irregular one. It simply won’t work on anyone with a regular heartbeat, even when the shock button is pressed.
There are about 200 businesses in Marin County that have registered AEDs, according to the Marin EMS.
In Napa, there are about 150 AEDs registered with the county’s EMS, however the majority of those are in government agencies like schools, said Brian Henricksen, EMS administrator. He noted it is a challenge to educate AED owners to register the devices. Although there is no penalty for not doing so, a public access device can be added to a mobile app called PulsePoint which notifies users of the nearest AED.
The same is true for Sonoma County, which has about 500 registered AEDs, and there are about 200 businesses in Marin County that are registered.
About 60 businesses in Petaluma have AEDs that are registered with HeartSafe Community, and Amy Pontius, owner of Riverfront Fitness Studio is one of them. Although she and her employees are trained in CPR and use of an AED, even for the untrained it is “impossible to misuse.”
“It’s so straightforward. When you turn it on you listen to the prompts and there is no way to make a mistake,” she said.
There are also pictures on the device that indicate where to place the pads on the body, and by dialing 911, users can also get instructions from emergency medical services over the phone, Bender said.