Managers urged to install defibrillators in workplace and train staff up on them

14 August 2014 -


Lifesaving devices should not be seen as merely wall ornaments, but as vital means of addressing unforeseen health emergencies

Matt Packer

Not enough heart defibrillators have been installed in British workplaces – and many would sit idle in any case during emergencies, as too many staffers are afraid to use them. They are the worrying findings of a recent survey of 2,000 bosses and workers.

According to defibrillator manufacturer DOC UK, just 15% of respondents reported that they had defibrillators in their workplaces. Of that group, less than half (44%) said they knew how to use them – while 11% said they had been trained, but would still not use the equipment in a genuine emergency as they lacked confidence.

The data also strongly suggests that many workers’ hesitations about using emergency devices are based upon non-existent risks. For example, 61% were concerned about injuring the casualty, or being held legally liable if something went wrong during a lifesaving attempt. An 11% group reported that they would not use the equipment for fear of accidentally electrocuting someone who was, in fact, well. However, there have been no cases of people being sued for using a defibrillator – and in any case, the equipment is calibrated to function only on people who are having genuine cardiac arrests.

Overall, a third of the respondents (33%) completely drew the line and said they would not use a defibrillator under any circumstances.

DOC UK manging director Vincent Mathieu said: “With 124,000 heart attacks a year in the UK touching people of all ages and physical conditions, defibrillators are essential equipment. However, they do no good if they are not used. It’s vital that companies have an on-site defibrillator that their staff will be confident to use in case of an emergency.”

Mathieu’s colleague, clinical director Dr Dennis Ferriday, has had first-hand experience of these workplace shortcomings: “As a practicing clinician,” he said, “I often work within companies where the staff are reluctant to use work-placed defibrillators. This reluctance often centres on concerns over whether the defibrillator would actually work if they used it, and their feeling of isolation when initially attending the casualty.”

Leading health and wellbeing expert Dr Sarah Brewer added: “The ideal scenario is for defibrillation to be carried out by a trained paramedic; however, time is of the essence. The convention is for people to be referred to as ‘brain-dead’ just four minutes after a cardiac arrest – and yet the target response time for an ambulance is eight minutes. This is why defibrillators at workplaces are essential. It’s also essential that people know how to use them, and aren’t too scared to do so – otherwise they are no more than a high-tech wall decoration.”

Mathieu stressed: “If a paramedic is unable to arrive in time, a defibrillator could be the only way to prevent a colleague from dying. For this to work, companies need to alert all staff to the presence of a defibrillator, organise training on how to use it, or buy a model that instantly connects the user to a remote call centre, where an operator trained to deal with medical emergencies would support them through the process.”

Headline image: a standard automated external defibrillator (AED), the model that is typically installed in public places – and should be.

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