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AEDs Urged For The Workplace

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Over the past two years, 13% of all U.S. workplace deaths were caused by sudden cardiac arrest, government statistics show. But according to a survey released today, only 6% of workplaces are equipped with portable defibrillators that could help save lives.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the USA; it claims a quarter-million lives a year. When the heart rhythm goes into chaos, the victim often needs a shock to restore a regular beat. An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is a simple-to-use portable device that senses heartbeat irregularity and shocks the heart back to its normal rhythm.

AEDs are just one step in cardiac arrest treatment; calling emergency medical service and performing CPR and advanced life support are also important. But treatment with an AED is often the most critical.

Fewer than 5% of cardiac arrest victims survive today, mainly because defibrillators don't reach them within the vital first five minutes after arrest. Emergency crews usually take 10 minutes to reach a victim. With each lost minute, the chance of survival falls 10%.

According to the new survey by marketing and consulting firm RoperASW for AED maker Philips Medical Systems, 53% of workplaces with defibrillators highly recommend that other workplaces get the devices, which cost $3,000 to $4,000.

The Building Owners and Managers Association recently urged its members to obtain the devices and begin training employees to use them.

Other work safety groups like the Occupational Safety & Health Administration have long stood by their assertion that defibrillators improve workplace safety. According to OSHA estimates, having onsite AEDs could save nearly 160 lives in the workplace every year.

Work safety groups say having AEDs handy in a work environment improves the chances for a stricken worker in case emergency crews are delayed because of traffic, tight building security or access to high-rises.

Operating the devices requires minimal training.

''The new device we have is almost like an AED for dummies,'' says David Sylvester, vice president of loss prevention for ShopRite stores. ''It's that easy.''

The nationwide grocery chain has put an AED in each of its 190 stores, with dramatic results. So far, ShopRite has saved five cardiac arrests victims in three years, the chain says.

''It brought me back to life. Without that machine, I wouldn't be here today,'' says Rodney Dudar, 59, a clerk in Linden, N.J., who was saved by a ShopRite AED. ''I think they should have them anywhere, workplaces, malls, schools. Anywhere there's people.''

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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