An increasing number of SMEs are installing automatic defibrillators in the workplace, instilling confidence in their employees and customers that the correct lifesaving equipment is immediately available in the event of a cardiac arrest on the premises. 

Whilst there is no legal requirement to install automatic defibrillators in the workplace, it is well-known that they can reduce the risk of a fatality from cardiac arrest and since they are designed to be used by untrained people, defibrillators can save many lives that may otherwise be lost.

What’s the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?

As the biggest cause of death in Australia, cardiac arrest is the sudden cessation of the heart, which stops beating and no longer pumps blood around the body. If the heart is not restarted very quickly, the individual is unlikely to survive, which is why an automatic defibrillator can save so many lives. 

Heart attacks on the other hand, occur when part of the heart muscle dies, but the heart is still beating and pumping blood around the body. A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest, but someone suffering from a heart attack does not need their heart restarted, unless the situation deteriorates to the point where they go into cardiac arrest and their heart stops.

Liabilities associated with automatic defibrillators

Untrained people cannot be sued for malpractice when they use an automatic defibrillator to save a life and in fact, these machines won’t ‘shock’ someone if they don’t need it. So if you aren’t sure if someone is having a heart attack or a cardiac arrest, the defibrillator won’t ‘shock’ them if they are having a heart attack, only if they are in cardiac arrest.

The settings of the defibrillator also cannot be altered, so you can’t deliver a charge that is too low or too high, you can only deliver a specific charge that is designed into the machine.

So whilst there is no liability for using a defibrillator in the workplace and there is also no liability if the person does not survive the event, once installed in the workplace they do come with certain obligations.

Obligations when defibrillators are installed in the workplace

As with all other electrical equipment on the premises, SMEs need to have their defibrillators regularly checked and maintained to ensure that they are in good working order at all times. Employers also have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment which includes having people trained in first aid on site and failure to provide these facilities can result in financial liability.

As you can imagine, having a defibrillator on site doesn’t ensure a positive outcome and even though they are designed to be used by untrained people, ensuring that your first aid responders are not only trained in CPR, but also in using a defibrillator can help to increase the odds of a positive outcome. 

Of course, there are financial costs involved in purchasing defibrillators, as well as in their maintenance and on-going staff training. Therefore, SMEs need to evaluate their own risk profile and decide whether or not to install a defibrillator in their workplace. To discuss your businesses risk profile with an insurance expert, contact one of our specialists today. 

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General Advice Warning

The information provided is to be regarded as general advice. Whilst we may have collected risk information, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. We recommend that you consider the suitability of this general advice, in respect of your objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it. You should obtain and consider the relevant product disclosure statement before making any decision to purchase this financial product.

Insurance Advisernet , November 01 2018

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