20% know someone who's had a heart attack at work

In honour of First Aid Awareness Week, St John Ambulance has been reminding us why it might be time to invest in a defibrillator...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 12 Apr 2011
Brace yourselves for some unsavoury health-related stats. According to St John Ambulance, around 30,000 people experience a cardiac arrest outside a hospital environment each year, only a third of whom will receive potentially critical CPR from a bystander. More startling than that, it reckons one in five people know someone who’s had a heart attack at work. We can’t help feeling that sounds quite high (and our totally unscientific straw poll of the office certainly suggests as much), but if the figure is anywhere near that, maybe it’s time to invest in some preventative measures…

In case you weren’t aware, this is First Aid Awareness Week, and St John Ambulance is using that hook to bang one of its favourite drums – the lack of awareness among businesses of a potentially life-saving option. We’ve written about these Automated External Defibrillators before, but in case your memory is not of the elephantine variety, we’re talking about those pads they have in hospital dramas that you whack on to the chest to shock the heart back into rhythm. According to SJA, this can increase survival chances by up to 75%. So the benefits are… CLEAR! (Sorry).

In all seriousness, while administering a pair of pads surging with 1,000 volts may seem to the average employee like a massive leap in responsibility from fixing a paper jam in the photocopier, SJA is keen to point out that these machines are now not only widely available to businesses, but are also easy-to-use and can be operated without much training. (Although training is of course recommended – if only to cut down on the likelihood of busting the kit out at the office Christmas bash.)

If you didn’t know any of this stuff, you’re not alone – only about a quarter of businesses have access to these AEDs (which do, in fairness, cost £1,600). But according to SJA, 66% of employees believe that employers ‘should reasonably be expected to keep one’. So while it’s not cheap, and will hopefully never be needed, it could be an investment worth making – if only because it will convince your staff that you're serious about their health and wellbeing.

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